NRC Trumps Local Authorities, Authorizes Weapons for Nuclear Plant Security

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has granted preemption authority to nuclear facilities in New York and California, allowing plant security forces to possess and use certain firearms and related devices despite local, state, or federal laws and regulations restricting their use.

The action follows years of review. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave the NRC authority to permit security forces at NRC-licensed facilities to possess and use certain firearms, ammunition, and large-capacity ammunition feeding devices in the performance of their official duties. The preemption authority became effective with the NRC’s 2009 publication of guidelines on the use of firearms at NRC-licensed facilities, which were approved by the Attorney General.

In 2013, the commission issued an order designating 10 nuclear facilities in New York, Maryland, Virginia, and California as eligible to apply for the preemption. Now, more than two and a half years later, the Indian Point, James A. FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point, and R.E. Ginna nuclear power plants in New York; the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plants in California; and the San Onofre and Diablo Canyon dry cask spent fuel storage facilities have been granted preemption authority. The eligible facilities that were not on today’s list were the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Maryland and the Babcock & Wilcox nuclear fuel fabrication facility in Virginia.

Preemption authority helps ensure the facilities can maintain capabilities described in their current NRC-approved security plans and is granted through orders and license amendments. However, designated facilities are required to perform background checks to verify that their security personnel are not prohibited from carrying firearms by state law.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)