Securing a Nuclear Power Plant: a Constant Challenge

A major national security issue

Nuclear power plants today represent a major national security issue. Following intrusions at the site of the plant at Cruas-Meysse in the Ardeche in November 2017, senators demanded and obtained a meeting with France's General Secretary for Defense and National Security, Nuclear Security Authority and Environment Minister in order to "ask questions about the security of France's nuclear power estate".

In the face of new forms of threats, and in particular the risk of terrorist attacks, the security of sites has been strengthened over the last 30 years.

The "Grand Carénage" project of 2008 (which planned a major refit) sought to prolong the lifespan of nuclear power plants and included, on top of its budget of €50 billion over 10 years, a new investment of €700 million between now and 2023 in equipment and installations aimed at improving security.

In the context of heightened security for sensitive sites, how are the different zones within a nuclear power plant structured ?

Perimeter zone (PZ)

As its name indicates, this is the first zone to be in direct contact with the exterior of the site, which makes its security even more fundamental. It is accessible to the public under certain conditions: identity check, vehicle search.

Existing security solutions obviously include fences and railings, and the non-lethal weapons carried by security personnel are designed to be a deterrent against any persons with bad intentions.

In order to control access by visitors in an optimal fashion, entrance gates must be fitted with electrical or mechanical locks.

Secure Zone (SZ)

This zone, adjacent to the first perimeter zone, is also accessible to the public, after having passed through tightened security formalities (identity card checks, deeper vehicle and bag searches, etc.).

Entrance gates, doors and hatches are secured using electrical or mechanical locks and padlocks. Interlocking lock systems are particularly recommended for large electricity production sites such as nuclear power plants.

Their captive-key system and system for transferring keys from equipment to equipment (in accordance with stop/start sequences) ensure the safety and security of visitors, operators and equipment.

Enhanced Protection Zone (EPZ)

This zone is more highly sensitive than the preceding ones as it includes industrial buildings accessible only to authorized EDF operators or authorized specialist sub-contractors.

This zone is before the Vital Zone or "final" zone which includes equipment which could cause serious accidents.

On top of electrical and mechanical locks fitted to gates, doors and hatches, more complex padlock systems can be installed to enhance security.
In order to secure the various valves located in the EPZ, we recommend for example choosing SATYX-type padlocks of different colors, requiring two operators to open each different padlock to allow the valve to be operated.

The delimitation of areas into zones with increasing levels of security within a nuclear power plant is in response to the new types of threats for which these sites must absolutely be prepared.

Serious investment in improving security can help to meet the constant challenge of ensuring the protection of people and installations.

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