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Nuclear Sector

Protection of and securing critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) is an essential constituent of the general U.S. protection department. Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector is one of the most significant sectors, which has to be properly secured from any possible natural disasters, unintentional and intentional manmade accidents, terrorist attacks or cyberattacks that threaten CIKR, and at the same time are hazardous to the public safety and health. The current paper consists of two major parts. The first one demonstrates the functions and general structure of the Nuclear Sector. Moreover, it aims to show all vulnerabilities existing in the sector that potentially pose a threat to general security if unaddressed. These include natural or artificial disasters, structural issues, aging workforce and infrastructure, terrorist attacks, etc. The second part is dedicated to the analysis of historical incident, which has influenced this sector; specifically it offers research on the nuclear partial core meltdown in Pennsylvania. The lessons learned from the incident together with the analysis of vulnerabilities are used to make recommendation concerning possible changes aimed at enhancement of security and protection.

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It is highly important to secure the critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR) from the natural and artificial disasters in order to maintain and sustain safe life of citizens. The facts demonstrate that a nuclear detonation or meltdown might seriously compromise CIKR in the accident surrounding location. The immediate damage after the impact would obliterate CIKR at the hypocenter of the incident. In fact, the destruction radius will be proportionate to the yield of the explosion. It is also highly significant to regard the secondary influences of a nuclear accident on CIKR. The hazard of radiation leakage is characteristic to the nature of the nuclear power plant facilities. The major hazard from the nuclear power station is the potential of the release of the radioactive materials generated in the reaction core as the consequence of fission.

Nuclear Sector Analysis

Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector, which is also identified as a Nuclear sector, incorporates 99 commercial nuclear plants, 31 RTTRs (research, training, and test reactors), 8 active fuel cycle facilities, waste management, 18 power reactors, and 6 fuel cycle facilities, which inactive or decommissioning (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016). In fact, it also incorporates the storage, transport, safe disposal, and usage of more than 3 million packages of nuclear or radioactive materials and wastes. In fact, plants operating in the nuclear sector appear among the most physically solidified American infrastructures, utilizing defense-in-depth security, which executes independent, redundant layer of defense to avoid single-point failures. In fact, high-hazard facilities are necessary for securing against the design basis hazard, by evaluating and defining all adversaries and attack possibilities that can occur in the specific location (Ellis, 2014). In fact, security is systematically inspected and tested with operations, which prodive a mock adversary opportunity (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016). This sector relies on an international and highly restricted supply chain of materials. Some main components appear to have merely one supplier around the globe, and foreign manufacturing of crucial elements or radioactive materials introduces the danger for counterfeiting and supply chain disruptions. Due to the fact that this sector is characterized by the public safety and economical significance, it presupposes that there is a solid national safety interest in Nuclear Sector facilities (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016). They differ in their proximity to the high-density population centers. The majority of the huge facilities and plants have been primarily constructed in the remote locations. Nevertheless, during the decades of operations, improvement has encroached on individual plants, in numerous cases increasing the outcomes of site destruction. The facts demonstrate that the greatest concentration of nuclear power plants appears along the Great Lakes and the East Coast (Ellis, 2014). The sector generates about 20 percent of the nations electricity, and it equipped with 104 commercial reactors licensed to operate in the U.S. Moreover, it is interdependent and interconnected with other critical infrastructure sectors, including Public Health, Chemical, Energy, Healthcare, and Transportation Systems (Ellis, 2014). The facilities operating in the sector appear to use similar systems, components, and structures to generate electrical power.

Nuclear Sector Vulnerabilities

Despite the solid economic advantages of the sector, when producing dependable base-load electricity, the plants are countered by the magnitude of the outcomes, which might be connected with the possible failure, damage, or destruction of critical assets. Numerous sector-peculiar hazards appear to be well comprehended, therefore, the nuclear industry taken significant steps for their mitigation. The facts demonstrate that this sector appears to be the most closely controlled and regulated among all other sectors. Moreover, the industry has taken supplementary steps for the assets protection, responding and recovering from the incidents, and enhancing resilience, especially after the March 2011 Fukushima accident, Japan (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016).

Nuclear energy facilities utilize both analog and digital systems to track and control plant operations, regulate equipment, and store or retrieve information. Analog systems adhere to the hard-wired instructions, while digital systems utilize software to equip the instructions. Digital systems, including individual computers and networks, are vulnerable to cyber attacks, which encompass malicious exploitations and infections by malware, such as worms, viruses, and programming codes. It is also important to mention that nuclear energy facilities are generated specifically to ensure safely, even in case of cyber security breach. There is a low probability of cyber attack impacting critical systems, especially due to the fact that the critical systems are not connected to the Internet and the inner network of the facility. This solidly minimizes the cyber attack pathway, but there is always a chance, and, therefore, the industry has always to be prepare to mitigate the possible problems.

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There might also appear different natural or artificial threats. Natural disasters and extreme weather conditions are among the most significant fears. The facts demonstrate that droughts, for instance, might lower the water level in canals, lakes, and rivers, which equip nuclear power plants with required cooling water. The history reveals that some of the nuclear power plants have decided to close and stop their operations provisionally in drought surroundings and states, as the water levels appeared to be much lower for the cooling water retraction pipes to retrieve it, or was too warm to act as a cooling water assortment (Ellis, 2014). On the other hand, there have been situations when the water became so algae-laden or brackish, that it could have clogged the equipment of the cooling system. In addition, earthquakes, storms, and tsunamis might solidly damage essential emergency and operating equipment. This is the main reason why such risks and hazards should be regarded during the building and sustaining of every facility. Moreover, there are numerous structural issues facing the plants. As nuclear power plants are greatly specialized, the design or construction flaws, which have not been divulged beforehand, can endanger plant processes.

The fourth hazard involves the aging infrastructure and workforce. The facts demonstrate that the operating life of the U.S. nuclear power plants is 40 years (Woo, 2012). All of the present-generation power reactors have been primarily custom-constructed. There were also some cases, when the original specification, organizational knowledge, or constituents were no longer accessible or incompatible with systems that are more recent. In addition, some of the nuclear assets are also ageing. There are approximately 120 thousand people operating in the U.S. nuclear industry and about 40 percent of them are eligible to retire within the next five years (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016). This is the main reason why the nuclear industry has concentrated heavily on retaining the institutional knowledge base and transmitting it to younger employees.

Fifthly, deliberate attacks and terrorism can also endanger the industry (Woo, 2012). Despite the fact that all nuclear power plants constantly estimate the situation, there are still emerging concerns, which incorporate minor, unmanned drone aircraft and other types of remotely operated vehicles, which can be utilized to launch minor-scale attacks or surveillance. This is highly important, as large-scale terrorist attacks might potentially lead to contamination of the surrounding community, widespread power disruption, or injuries, and damage. Individual small attacks launched by disrupted individuals or activists might also result in potential disruptions. Previous incidents indicate the existence of individuals who utilize high-powered weapons from outside of the plant perimeter to shoot at large facilities and structures, including cooling towers. In fact, robust facility design, construction, and maintenance of facilities mitigate these problems (Woo, 2012).

The sixths hazard is the supply chain disruptions. The facts demonstrate that all American nuclear facilities seriously depend on the international suppliers for the principal and solid replacement of constituents and essential systems, including software and training simulators. There are several constituents, including reactor vessels and heavy forgings, which are merely accessible and can be obtained from one or restricted quantity of foreign suppliers (Shally-Jensen, 2011). In addition, nuclear facilities also appear to be reliant on supply chains for the transportation of the uranium from fuel cycle facilities, mills, and medical isotope supplies. Therefore, a disruption of the fuel supply, especially, taking into account the durability, might negatively affect nuclear power plats operations.

Finally, the source diversion together with mishandled radioactive sealed sources can also have negative consequences. These mishandled sources are the so-called orphan sources, which incorporate older sources that have been never controlled or regulated and those, which are abandoned, stolen, removed without authorization, and misplaced (Ellis, 2014). They might pose the hazard of inadvertent or accidental misusage or disruptive acts, which might expose unknowing individuals. Mishandling sources, such as the unintentional dissolution of radioactive sources, might generate health issues and problems for the individuals instantly and require costly and high-priced clean-up (Ellis, 2014). In addition, there is a hazard that terrorists might steal or diver sources to design RDDs (radiological dispersal devices) that are aimed at spreading radioactive material with malicious intention.

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Incident Analysis

The nuclear partial core meltdown occurred in Pennsylvania in 1979. It happened at Metropolitan Edisons and General Public Utilities Three Mile Island commercial nuclear power plant (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). The core reactor of TMI-2 (Three Mile Island Unit Two) overheated because of a number of electrical or mechanical failures provoked by the conglomeration of equipment malfunctions and operator confusion and error (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). As the accident spanned across five days, it resulted in decreased levels of radiological release. Nevertheless, this accident appears to be one of the most serious in the whole U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history. It has been ranked at the level five out of seven levels according to the INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) for the accelerated communication of safety importance (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). The incident aftermath incorporated environmental and health repercussions, developments and improvements to the U.S. nuclear policy and emergency readiness/preparedness, together with the coordination tentatives within the overall nuclear sector.

In general, TMI nuclear facilities utilize a pressurized water reactor in order to generate electricity, which applies uranium-grounded processes to generate heat, which is later converted into electric power utilizing stream (Ellis, 2014). In case of TMI-2, it suffered a failure in coolant system that led to serious and solid damages to the fuel and reactor (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). The facts demonstrate that pumps supplying water for the steam generator in reactor in TMI-2 have actually malfunctioned leading to the detrimental cooling water. The excessive heat provoked the pressure level to increase, triggering the opening of pilot-processed relief valve (Woo, 2012). The control room readings revealed that the electric power to the pilot-processed relief valve was shut off, allowing operators to assume that it had properly re-closed, meaning that the core was being cooled. Nevertheless, it was open and remained open for 2 hours and 22 minutes, draining required coolant water, while the reactor was operating, leading to the overheating of the reactor core (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). As the internal vessel and reactor core temperatures proceeded to escalate, it provoked an automatic scram, what is an emergency shutdown of a nuclear reactor. The crisis started early morning on March 28, when control systems alerts indicated malfunctioning (Woo, 2012). Control room operators executed all necessary procedures in reaction to the warning signals of the system and reported unusual system activities, while taking precautionary measures to resume standard reactor functionality. However, the situation persisted and the Director of Emergency Management reported about the accident to the PEMA (Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency), which in turn informed the state and local government (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). As the consequence, NRC sponsored the research of the safety failures at TMI, and enacted a post-TMI action plan specifically created to enhance industry regulations and the operational security and safety of the U.S. nuclear facilities.

Lessons Learned from the Incident

Thus, the incident analysis demonstrates that this event provided the basis for the NRC to reorganize and enhance the management of nuclear power facilities (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). Tactics including the enlargement of facility security advancing requirements, elevated authoritative control, and more severe rules and regulations appeared to be the fundamental ground for the substantial security performance enhancement of the U.S. nuclear power plants. In addition, the NRC also improved norms of training, background capabilities necessary for operators and the requirement for all U.S. nuclear plants in order to have a ready-evolved emergency operational plan untouched.

This incident assisted in acknowledging the significance of the security of U.S. CIKR. As a response to the federal challenges due to the accident at the TMI, President J. Cater enacted EO (executive order) 12127, organizing the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) as a constituent the National Homeland Security strategy in order to centralize and integrate numerous federal agencies with emergency reaction accountabilities (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). Moreover, EO 12148 authorized FEMA to equip the directives for the reaction policy, especially concerning the organizational and operational coordination of the accident management (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). This allowed creating standardized structure among multiple entities. At the same time, the flexibility of FEMAs comprehensive guidance documents for the emergency readiness reactions provides the possibility to modify appropriately the response when needed. Thus, the approach for complicated incidents reactions developed by FEMA can be easily adapted to numerous scenarios, including the meltdowns. The accident provided the possibility for FEMA development, which currently became one of the main agents, executing significant role in the Nuclear CIKR emergency planning and response management, especially in the development of Radiological Emergency Preparedness program (Ellis, 2014). Thus, FEMA assumed the accountability for the coordination of the off-site operations, particularly governmental emergency response and planning, while NRC sustained accountability for the on-site regulation of the response and planning operations.


The facts demonstrate that the NRC and the U.S. nuclear industry cooperate closely in order to enhance the resilience of all countrys facilities by lowering the hazard of possible incidents, accidents, and attacks on individual facilities, and by implementing measures to ensure the incessant operations or the secure shutdown of essential assets and functions during an emergency (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016).

Firstly, this requires effective implementation of both regulated and voluntary state-of-art security measures and testing of individual facilities. Secondly, it is highly important to partake in workshops, training, and programs, which enhance the personnel capabilities and knowledge. Thirdly, it is necessary to secure the innovative rules and regulations. In fact, when they are well prepared and improved, they should represent industrys best practices and obtainable securable measures. This has to be implemented through the incessant estimation and consolidation of the overall safety programs in the reaction to the alterations of the hazardous settings, technological advancements, and learned lessons. This is the main reason why the substantial enhancements to the nuclear sector have been already made to secure the facilities from radiological sabotage and terrorism. In fact, such improvements include the intensively trained security forces, strong physical barriers, surveillance systems, intrusion detection systems, and plant access controls (Nuclear reactors, materials, and waste sector, 2016). In addition, it is necessary to consolidate reaction capacities via integral projecting, planning, and exercises, which will encompass main shareholders and stakeholders. This will help enhance sector communications, promoting consistency, while ensuring overall dependence of the systems operating in the sector on the readiness plans and incident management. In case of high-hazard isotopes, there is a necessity to investigate measures in order to secure or possibly replace high-hazard radioisotopes utilized in the healthcare and industrial conditions (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). It is necessary to develop a wide variety of programs to ensure that the sources are utilized only as intended. In regard to transportation, it is necessary to address incessant challenges concerning the exceeded commercial disposal activity restrictions. Therefore, it is necessary to check and verify the governance regarding the profit-oriented disposition concerning the pressurized sources. At times when the private sector is improving innovative transportation containers in order to stimulate recovery of abandoned or lost high-operation sources and devices, the state has to create a final environmental impact statement to enhance the disposal of Greater-than-Class-C sources and materials (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). As for the cyber risks, there is a need to develop a comprehensive cyber-security rules and regulations. Each nuclear plant operator should develop a specific cybersecurity plan suiting each particular facility, outlining the whole program and schedule, which has to be approved and implemented by the working program. In addition, NRC has to review constantly the plans and schedules. This will require the establishment of a dedicated cyber-security evaluation teams, essential digital assets and systems, isolation of the principal control systems concerning the portable equipment and media, and enhancement of the defenses against inner hazards and risks, through mitigation and training (Austin, Siera & Brooks, 2016). Finally, it is highly necessary to offer recommendations for the cross-sector and senior-level engagements, in order to address interdependencies appearing between the nuclear sector and all other essential infrastructure sectors. This will help in obtaining enhanced comprehending, planning, and mitigation of the lifeline sector rapport.


The current analysis demonstrates that Nuclear Sector has to constantly improve and develop in order to provide appropriate security from possible disruptions and catastrophes. In fact, history and previous accidents provide important lessons, which should be taken into account when improving infrastructure resiliency and protection. The current paper provides several recommendations for the enhancement of actions and process operations in the sector. This requires consolidation of cyber and physical risks management in order to deal with hazards and risks crucial for the infrastructure. It is also necessary to construct coordination, possibilities and competence improve recuperation and reaction. It is also important to consolidate the coordination and collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and jurisdictions. Furthermore, the efficiency and effectiveness in regard with resilience decision-making should also be enhanced. Finally, all of these actions require sharing information and data in order to improve impeding, securing, mitigation, protection, reaction, and recovery operations. This will help increase security and protection, and these recommendations can be taken as a fundamental ground for the formulation of new regulations, policies, strategies, and organizations.

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