A Valley nuclear plant caught the attention of the federal government - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL


A Valley nuclear plant caught the attention of the federal government

A 2006 incident at a Valley nuclear plant has gotten the attention of the federal government.

Now, they're stepping in and asking, how safe and secure is Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant, and others across the nation?

Last August, unit three at Browns Ferry in Limestone County had an emergency shutdown, a scram. The source of the problem identified, and that unit was restarted in a matter of days.

It's the latest network threat to affect the nation's power utilities, and one that was reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Their response now has a Homeland Security Committee involved.

It didn't take long to figure out what happened to unit three at the Browns Ferry Nuclear plant back in August 2006.

The NRC report says: a manual shutdown from a loss of both reactor recirculation pumps. In simpler terms, there was too much network traffic and that caused key components of unit three to stop communicating.

TVA spokesman Terry Johnson talks about the preventative measures taken afterwards.

"After the event we went additional, we added additional firewalls and additional mechanisms in place to further isolate each of these equipments," said Johnson.

But experts in this field, and now members of congress are pointing a critical finger to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation's nuclear plants.

A letter from the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, says there's "great concern" about the cybersecurity posture of the nation's nuclear power plants."

"The same thing that allows that error to occur are the same types of vulnerabilities that a cybercriminal or a terrorist would want to exploit these systems as well," said Bryan Singer, an industrial security consultant.

And deep reservations about the NRC's hesitation to conduct a special investigation into the errors that caused unit three to shut down.

"They kinda contradicted themselves because they said we decided not to investigate this because we didn't think it was a safety issue and didn't think it was an attacker that caused it, but then they go back with government investigators and say well we don't really know what it was for sure," said Singer.

The committee on Homeland Security gave the NRC until June 14th to respond to its letter.

The WAFF 48 investigators contacted the NRC for a response Thursday. If we get one, we'll pass it along to you.

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