Sen. Yager Incident At Watts Bar Proves Need For Law


(NASHVILLE, TN), April 22, 2013  – State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) said the exchange of gunfire by a security guard and unknown assailant at Watts Bar Nuclear Facility shows the need for a new law that he sponsored in 2012 which allows security officers to carry firearms.  The new law gives security officers at Tennessee’s two Category 1 nuclear power plants, Watts Bar and Sequoyah, the authority to use deadly force to prevent an act of radioactive sabotage.
The incident occurred on Sunday at about 2:00 a.m. when a suspect fired several multiple rounds at a Tennessee Valley Authority security officer on routine patrol according to a TVA spokesman.  The officer returned fire and was calling for backup when the individual fled.  Authorities are still searching for the shooter.
“Our new law spelled out that facility security officers at these two power plants have the scope of authority to use deadly force to effectively defend the public as well as themselves,” said Senator Yager.  “Although we don’t know the details about why this individual fired on the officer yet, we must constantly be on guard and stay ahead of those who might want to harm us.”
Before passage of the law, Watts Bar and Sequoyah were operating under the Castle Doctrine.   The Castle Doctrine is a self-defense provision that allows for the use of force when threatened within one’s home.  The 2012 law expanded beyond the Castle Doctrine, due to the safety implications to the public posed by threats of radioactive sabotage.
“The new law also identifies the nuances that have been in place since 9-11 and the sophistication of potential adversaries who might attempt to gain entry into our facilities,” he added.  “It was important that we recognized those changes.”
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) prescribes stringent qualifications and training for nuclear security officers.  The facilities have a security plan that is regulated and inspected by the NRC every year.  TVA also has a nuclear facility training program for the officers which is part of the plan approved and inspected by the NRC annually.