Local officials support Proos, Pscholka bills to help protect nuclear facilities

LANSING—The House and Senate Energy and Technology committees on Tuesday heard from Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey and officials from the Cook Nuclear Power Plant in support of legislation sponsored by Sen. John Proos and Rep. Al Pscholka to increase protections of nuclear facilities.

“Michigan’s nuclear plants provide abundant power to energize our economy and are among the most secure facilities in the country,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph. “I sponsored this legislation to ensure we are empowering security teams to do everything possible to keep our communities safe. Unfortunately, current state law restricts the ability of security officers to do their jobs. This common-sense reform would outline very specific situations where use of force would be allowed to stop terrorist attacks or sabotage.”

Pscholka, R-Stevensville, said, “As the representative for a district that contains one nuclear power plant and is close to another, I consider myself fortunate. Cook power plant has been a tremendous partner in providing thousands of well-paying jobs to Southwest Michigan residents and boosting our local economy. But having a nuclear power plant also leads to a responsibility, the need to protect our nuclear assets from those who seek to do them harm.”

Senate Bill 757 and House Bill 5282 would give nuclear plant security officers reasonable and necessary response capabilities to protect plants, employees and the general public from current-day tactics in an ever-expanding threat environment.

“Most people are unaware of the high level of capability of the Cook security force. We have assisted them on several exercises on difficult hostile action scenarios that require an integrated response,” Bailey said. “The one stumbling block we found is the limit in the use of force, as it applies to the security officers. This legislation would give the officers the ability to protect their facilities and the people of Michigan by responding quickly and effectively to an unlikely – yet possible – attack on a nuclear plant.”

Federal law says that the use of force at nuclear power plants be in accordance with state law. While Michigan law supports nuclear power plant security, it provides officers with no more authority to protect a plant than citizens have to protect their home.  

SB 757 and HB 5282 would update state law to allow nuclear power plant security officers, if necessary, the right to use or threaten physical force, including deadly, where they reasonably believe that physical harm, radiological sabotage or theft of nuclear materials is imminent. Five other states have passed similar laws.

“Everything we do at the Cook Nuclear Plant supports our primary responsibility to protect the health and safety of the public,” said Crissy Hutchinson, director of nuclear site services at the Cook Nuclear Power Plant. “This legislation is necessary and needed to make our already safe plants even safer.”

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Editor’s Note – A print-quality photograph of Proos testifying is available by visiting Sen. Proos’ website at: www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Photowire.”