The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has proposed a new rule. The government-run organization, which aims to "protect people and the environment," according to its website, says it would allow guards at stations such as the Exelon Nuclear's Limerick Generating Station to carry "enhanced weapons."
According to a report in the San Fransisco Chronicle, the NRC said the larger weapons may be used to "to guard spent fuel rods being stored at nuclear power plants."
Limerick is one of many nuclear plants in the nation that must store its own "spent fuel" cells.
"Spent fuel is the waste by-product of nuclear fission reactors and is primarily uranium that no longer produces enough heat to produce the steam to run generators, but which remains radioactive for thousands of years," said the SFC article.
Currently, the NRC is reviewing a bill from 2005 that states facilities "could voluntarily apply" for authority to use "an expanded arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and semi-automatic, large-capacity assault weapons."
"We can't provide specific details on the types of weapons our security officers carry or the extent of Exelon's background investigations (for safeguard reasons)," Dana Melia, communications manager for the nuclear plant, told the Pottstown Mercury's Evan Brandt. "But Limerick already receives the highest level of security and protection as mandated by the NRC."
It is unclear if Limerick plans to upgrade its artillery for protection of the spent fuel.
"The proposed rule would require all US nuclear power plants to subject security personnel to additional background checks. It would also allow nuclear operators to apply for enhanced weaponry if deemed necessary," said Melia.
According to the Generation Station's website, the facility opened a dry cask storage facility for spent fuel storage on its grounds in 2007.
"Limerick’s used fuel is safely stored on site in a spent fuel pool and in dry cask storage," said the site. "Every two years, on alternating years, each unit shuts down for a refueling outage. At this time, used fuel is removed from the reactor and placed in the used fuel pool for storage. Also each year, the oldest used fuel assemblies are carefully selected from the used fuel pool to be stored using dry cask storage."
For the full story, read this San Francisco Chronicle article.