On 9/11 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission posted a chilling notice, announcing that subject to a formal rulemaking it would allow nuclear plant operators to “apply for permission for their security personnel to possess and use certain ‘enhanced weapons.’ These weapons are machineguns, short-barreled shotguns or short-barreled rifles….Previously, with limited exceptions, only federal, state or local law enforcement could lawfully possess machineguns.”
If ever there was to be a national, industry-wide exemption from the rules governing who gets to carry machine guns in the United States, it is no surprise that it turned out to be for nuclear plant operators, particularly given the failure of the NRC and its licensees to achieve anything like real security at nuclear reactor sites. (For example, there was the 1993 intruder at TMI who crashed through security gates and took four hours to find and, more recently, the snoozing guards at Pennsylvania’s Peach Bottom plant, caught on video and subsequently televised.)
But what of the larger meaning of this decision? Isn’t the NRC effectively telling us that in exchange for a certain amount of electricity we must tolerate military-style nuclear encampments in our midst?