America at war
National Guard helping to secure Brown's Ferry
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
There are small white and blue signs throughout Hartselle, informing anyone who's interested that they are on the evacuation route for Brown's Ferry Nuclear Power Plant.
Drivers blithely pass the signs every day. In the event of a terrorist attack at Brown's Ferry, however, those signs would help direct thousands of people away from the plant and through Hartselle.
The city is on the evacuation route from Browns Ferry, a route that snakes through North Alabama on Highway 31 and makes its way to the central part of the state.
The plant is located in Limestone County, some 35 miles from Hartselle.
Earlier this week, the troops from the Alabama National Guard were called out to help protect the plant. Gov. Bob Riley mobilized the troops, saying the on-going war with Iraq and the recently raised homeland terror alert prompted the move.
Craig Beasley, spokesperson for Browns Ferry, said TVA officials did not request the troops to be stationed at the plant, but appreciated the extra help.
"We already have our security measures put into place here at Browns Ferry, but the action taken by the governor will help offset our security force at the plant," Beasley said. "We already have armed and trained security personnel here."
Beasley said he wasn't sure how long the National Guard will be stationed at the plant.
The National Guard troops are just the latest segment of increased security at the plant. The plant has been under a watchful eye since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Security was tightened again last year, with the FBI released a report saying nuclear power plants could be targeted by terrorists.
Last week, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge confirmed a possible terrorist threat at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Arizona. National Guard troops are also watching that facility.
The threats mean more work at Brown's Ferry, Beasley said.
"We increased the patrol around the plant, extended the security perimeter, limited the access into the plant, and put all vehicles coming into the plant subject to random and full inspections," Beasley said. "Our communications with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies was enhanced."
Approximately 950 people are employed at Browns Ferry operating Units 1 and 2 at the nuclear facility. An additional 1,000 people are involved in the re-start of Unit 1.
Beasley said he does not foresee the plant changing its schedules or operating procedures.
"If the threat level changes and goes higher, Browns Ferry will remain operational and we will continue to make sure our employees are protected," Beasley said.
Thomas Tingle, managing editor of the Madison County Record, contributed to this report.