The U.S. nuclear energy industry is serious about safety. They erect nuclear power plants to very high safety standards, with complex safety features and redundant critical functions. For fifty years these steps have kept the possibility of a catastrophic reactor accident from becoming a reality.
However, the potential to deliberately create a catastrophe makes nuclear power plants attractive targets for terrorist attack or sabotage.
It is with this potential threat in mind that the NRC now requires all nuclear power plant security programmes to include access authorization or ID verification measures. These measures must control access to the plant, monitor movement within the facility, and prevent unauthorized, undesirable, and unsafe intruders from penetrating areas where special nuclear material or key equipment are located.
When AB&R took on the task of helping a major nuclear power facility comply with the latest NRC regulations, they quickly saw that their client's legacy ID cards were going to be a problem. The cards lacked bar-coding, which hampered rapid ID verification. And their laminated coating was easy to peel off--an open invitation to tampering.
"The specific requirements of the application along with the critical timetable for implementation complicated the solution. NRC audit constraints dictated a wireless infrastructure for real-time verification along with a credential that was essentially tamper-proof," explained Steve Beck, AB&R's Strategic Account Manager for the project.