BRATTLEBORO -- Though spokesmen from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon said there was no danger to the plant's reactor building, a man who delivered a truckload of ice to the plant said he was astounded when he was waved through the front gate two weeks ago without being searched.
"It struck me as weird to be able to drive through the first gate," said Peter Caloon, Rice's Ice plant manager, in Greenfield, Mass. "Why do they have a guy with an automatic rifle at the gate if they're not worried about checking vehicles there?"
Yankee spokesman Rob Williams said the truck was sent to a building that was built after Sept. 11, 2001, that is meant to isolate routine deliveries from any critical plant infrastructure.
"There are many more layers and requirements that this vehicle would have had to pass through before approaching the plant," he said.
Caloon was delivering $68 dollars worth of ice -- 360 pounds -- for an employee meeting.
"If I had gotten through the second gate and my truck was filled with explosives like Timothy McVeigh and I pushed a button, everyone would have been gone," said Caloon.
Caloon also wondered what could have happened if 20 gun-toting terrorists were in the back of his truck.
Four years ago, Caloon used to drive for a local beverage dealer and whenever he delivered spring water to the plant, his truck was searched.
"Why not now?"
Caloon said his biggest concern about what he perceived to be a security lapse was that he lives south of the plant, on the Connecticut River in Turner's Falls, Mass.
"If something was to happen there, the radiation would go down the river," he said.
Caloon and his ice truck only entered the "owner-controlled area," said Neil Sheehan, spokesman for the NRC, and not the "protected area," which is a fenced-in area featuring checkpoints to allow access to such structures as the reactor building.
Under NRC regulations, plants are required to ensure that only authorized vehicles are granted access through vehicle barrier portals, he said, which might consist of obstacles such as Jersey barriers or large concrete blocks.
"Vehicles and materials that will be going through the vehicle barrier portals are searched for contraband or other items that could be used to commit radiological sabotage," said Sheehan. "The ice truck was not granted access past those vehicle barriers and therefore did not have to be searched. There was no requirement that the truck be searched."
"Shouldn't that be your first line of defense?" asked Caloon, about the main gate.
Caloon was so concerned that he contacted the NRC's Allegations Division, which told him no security measures were violated. Caloon said he begged to differ with its conclusion.
"I was delivering ice to the Keystone Cops," he said.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.