NRC Imposes Additional Security Measures for Research Reactors

WASHINGTON – The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced May 1 that it is requiring tighter security measures on research and test reactors, many of which are located on university campuses.

Facilities housing research and test reactors must now ensure people currently allowed unescorted access to the reactors, or people requesting such access, are fingerprinted and undergo a criminal history check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The NRC already requires these facilities perform these checks on employees with access to sensitive security information.

According to a statement released by the NRC, “unescorted access” means a person could control the radioactive material to be protected at the research reactor without being detected by several kinds of security systems or personnel. The order requires that the results of the criminal history check can be reviewed only by an NRC-approved individual at the facility. If an employee has a recently completed criminal history check, an additional check would not be required.

Facilities covered by the order have 20 days to establish a fingerprinting program. These facilities must notify the NRC at the end of those 20 days whether they will be able to comply, or explain why specific provisions are unnecessary at a facility. The NRC is also planning to propose revising its regulations to impose the order’s requirements on a permanent basis.

University reactors came under significant scrutiny in the fall of 2005 when ABC Primetime alleged that many of the nation’s research reactors on college campuses are not properly secured.

The order will be available on the NRC’s Web site at: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/enforcement/security/.

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