The nuclear industry beefed up security at power plants throughout the country after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the plants today remain as vulnerable to a hit from a plane using a nearby small airport as they were then.
A USA TODAY analysis shows that thousands of airports are within 60 miles of plants; 52 are within five miles. Yet, aircraft based at many of these airports are largely unguarded and could reach a nuclear site within minutes.
Nuclear power companies say their plants, designed to withstand earthquakes, are well protected and wouldn’t release radiation if struck by an aircraft. But some scientists, safety experts and lawmakers say the real threat is the ever-increasing stockpile of used fuel stored in less-protected pools at the plants.