WASHINGTON — All 107 nuclear reactors in the United States are inadequately protected from terrorist attacks, according to a Defense Department-commissioned report released Thursday.
The report, by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, warns that the current security required of civilian-operated reactors fails to safeguard against airplane attacks, rocket-propelled grenades and more than a small handful of attackers.
The research highlights the 11 most vulnerable reactors, including plants near Port St. Lucie; Southport, N.C.; Columbia, Mo.; and Gaithersburg, Md., less than 25 miles from the White House.
"There are 104 nuclear power reactors and three research reactors, none of which are protected against a 9/11-style terrorist attack," Alan J. Kuperman, an associate professor at the university who co-authored the report, said in a conference call Thursday.
He made multiple references to the 9/11 Commission's finding that al-Qaida had considered targeting a nuclear power reactor during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which he said was proof this was already on "al-Qaida's radar screen."
Three organizations control the safety of nuclear materials: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense. Because each group creates its own threat assessment, referred to as the "design basis threat," security standards vary.
"Design basis threat should be the same for all U.S. nuclear facilities, public or private, that pose catastrophic risks," Kuperman said, highlighting a conclusion from the report.
In a statement, the NRC called its security requirements "robust" and said it was "confident that these important facilities are adequately protected."