Senators Have Plan to Federalize Security Guards at Nuclear Power Plants

Two Democratic senators plan to introduce legislation after the Thanksgiving congressional recess to federalize security guards at the country's nuclear power plants.

"We can no longer leave the security at our nation's nuclear power plants to chance," said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who along with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., were drafting the legislation.

Reid, who is assistant Senate majority leader and chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over nuclear issues, noted that Congress just agreed to federalize passenger and baggage screeners at airports.

"It's time we focus the same energy to improve safety at nuclear power plants," said Reid.

GOP conservatives in the House had opposed making the airport workers federal employees, and may also object to federalizing guards at nuclear plants.

Private guards hired by the plant operators now handle security at the 103 nuclear reactors in 31 states. Although they carry weapons, they have no police power.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the private security forces at many of the plants have been augmented by local or state police and in at least seven states by National Guard troops.