AOPA this week told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that fears about general aviation raised by two groups opposed to California's Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant are unwarranted.
The San Luis Obispo Mothers For Peace and the Union of Concerned Scientists petitioned the NRC for better protection from potential terrorist attacks, including suicide aircraft assaults, at Diablo Canyon. The petition specifically mentioned general aviation.
But in a formal response to the petition, AOPA reiterated that the average GA aircraft is incapable of causing significant damage and that the government and the aviation community have implemented general aviation security enhancements.
"While the terrorist attacks of September 11 were not orchestrated using general aviation aircraft...the general aviation industry has taken a very proactive approach to security issues," wrote Andy Cebula, AOPA senior vice president of government and technical affairs. He noted the Airport Watch program, created by AOPA in conjunction with the Transportation Security Administration; a 12-point security proposal put forth by the General Aviation Coalition, much of which has been adopted by the FAA and TSA into federal security procedures; and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association efforts with the U.S. Treasury Department to flag suspicious aircraft purchases.
As for any actual threat posed by light GA aircraft, Cebula referred the NRC to an AOPA-commissioned independent study, " Nuclear Security—General Aviation Is Not a Threat," conducted by Robert Jefferson, an internationally recognized nuclear safety and security expert. In his report, Jefferson concluded that GA aircraft could not penetrate the reactor containment building, an explosive-laden GA aircraft could not cause a release of radiation, and a small aircraft attack on auxiliary buildings would not cause a safety failure.
AOPA told the NRC that the petition by the two groups ignores the very basic physical differences between a small 1,200-pound general aviation aircraft and a 200,000-pound airliner.
Said Cebula about the petition, "Mothers For Peace and the Union of Concerned Scientists may be sincere in their concerns about safety at nuclear power plants, but dragging general aviation into the argument just doesn't make sense and does nothing to support their claims."