by Morley Lymburner
In 1990 Blue Line Magazine presented a story about Ontario Hydroâ€™s Bruce Nuclear Power development and the security issues surrounding its protection. Five years after 9/11 we thought we should re-visit this facility, now simply called Bruce Power, to see how things have changed. One of the most fundamental changes was that it was now a private business owned by share holders. One group of owners is the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System. OMERS is the fund which all municipal police in Ontario invest their pension money.
Upon re-visiting the Bruce Power site after 16 years we were confronted with an astonishing transformation in security. Not only had the entire security section been revamped, re-equipped and trained but they had actually become world class competition winners in nuclear facility tactical response protection.
In spite of soaring temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius the June competitions, held near Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Bruce Power Nuclear Response Team (NRT) blasted past its competitors to land first place out of 10 law enforcement agency competitors. The competition, known as the Security Protection Officer Training Competition (SPOTC), is held each year with a variety of categories. The competition was broken down into two categories of competitors. One is Department of Energy (DOE) and Non-DOE (Law Enforcement Agency). At the competition the Bruce NRT came in first of seven teams under the DOE competition and tenth in the Non-DOE teams. In addition they placed fifth overall out of a total of 17 teams. The team was further recognized by their peers for showing the best teamwork and moral support of others.
The simple fact that the Bruce Power Nuclear Response Team received first place is overshadowed by the teams they actually surpassed or came startlingly close to beating. Sending a team that can stare down tactical units of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Marine Corp Close Quarter Battle Team is no small task. The Bruce Powerâ€™s NRT not only managed to come out on top but also managed to leave an admiring impression with each team they left behind.
"It came as no real surprise to us," says Wade Lacroix, Chief of Security for Bruce Power. "We all knew we had a well prepared, equipped and motivated tactical team. Our only problem was finding the right place to have them compete so we could give our members a yard stick to measure themselves. Previously the NRT team finished fifth place at the â€˜2005 World SWAT Challengeâ€™ in the Nevada desert. Some of the 18 teams there included Germanyâ€™s GSG-9, LAPD SWAT, and Dallas SWAT. This spring we made eight out of 22 teams in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the â€˜2006 World SWAT Challenge. But we did not really find our home until we competed against other teams in the nuclear world competition held in Albuquerque."
Duncan Hawthorne, Bruce Powerâ€™s President and CEO was extremely impressed with the teamâ€™s win. "To do so well in this competition and also be recognized by your peers for the manner of performance is doubly satisfying," he said.
Three years ago Chief Lacroix and his staff began working on equipping and training a select group of officers for the specific purpose of preventing an armed breach of the plant facilities. The NRT members selected consists of a wide array of individuals with varying backgrounds. Some came with police backgrounds while others have military or correctional officer backgrounds.
Lacroix, a former Detachment commander and Inspector with the Ontario Provincial Police, was also a Tactics and Rescue Team leader. Seconded to the Bruce Power facility he was given the job of hardening the defences of the plant. His first task was to surround himself with the best team of tactical trainers available. This was not in itself an easy task and considerable convincing was required to have some of these people agree to move over. The task of protection was previously seen as a custodial type job of checking the IDâ€™s of people entering and leaving the site and watching the fences for intruders. The type of people traditionally drawn to work at Bruce were retired people with military or corrections experience not the young high energy people needed for tactical response.
This problem can be exemplified in Blue Lineâ€™s previous article from 1990 when the former director of security pointed out that their mandate, if attacked, was to hold back an intruder for 17 minutes, with no firearms, because tests had shown this was ample time to get police to the facility in an emergency. This holding back was somehow to be accomplished with passive defence systems like alarms, chain link fences, locked doors and concrete walls. Officers viewing a possible problem were simply eyes and ears until armed police arrived on site.
"In this new age we live in this is simply not good enough," Lacroix points out. "We decided from the very beginning that our defensive forces, post 9/11, should not need to rely on any help from outside our fences. This is not to say we would not call for assistance because we certainly will. But the mind set of the entire organization from the top on down must be that we can secure and hold this facility better than any other agency or group we could call in. Another way to put it is that we would be calling in the police to simply be our backup as we will be the first responders."
Legislation And Equipment
Although reluctant to give specific details the Bruce Power Security Force is described as being larger than the city of Kingston or Chatham Kent Police Services and their tactical response capability larger than both combined. To accomplish this duty to protect the nuclear material and over 5,000 workers the security operations are supplied with an array of state of the art equipment and legislation both provincially, federally and internationally to back them up.
Arming any officials, government or not, was once viewed as an almost betrayal of Canadian principles of non-confrontation. Difficult as it is to get any Canadian enforcement agency to arm themselves the concept of arming security guards was a tough pill for governmental bureaucrats to get their heads around. When it comes to nuclear facilities many Canadian regulatory agencies skimmed over international protocols requiring an appropriately armed security staff. After 9/11 the point became not quite so conveniently obscure as it once had been.
"Essentially we are here to protect nuclear material from theft and sabotage," Chief Lacroix points out. "Internationally regulated, Canada is required to supply a design basis threat deterrence for all its nuclear facilities. The arming of the security officers is covered by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which is covered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The international authority says Canada must have an on-sight response force and an off-site response force. Ontario Powerâ€™s approach in the past was not to arm security but call for the police. But international recommendations clearly stated that there must be an on-sight response force and this was to be read that it must have the same capability as the off-site response force. Added to this each officer has powers of arrest under section 117.08 of the Criminal Code with regard to the people and property they are protecting."
"So in a nutshell the officers have â€˜public agentâ€™ status which basically states that if you are an agent of the federal government you can carry a gun. Our security officers are defined as â€˜public agentsâ€™ under section 117 of the Criminal Code and Public Agents under Firearms Regulations. They are required to carry firearms by authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, a public service agency. As a result we have determined that to fulfill our mandate the security personnel must train and use such weapons as C8â€™s, MP5â€™s and Sig Sauer semi-automatics."
In the category of equipment the security branch took delivery of several armoured assault vehicles custom designed for their use. The design and utility of these vehicles were so impressive that local police have already borrowed one for a special local response. These newly acquired vehicles join a fleet consisting of water craft, patrol trucks, and mobile command posts.
All uniforms were changed from blue to grey to conform to a style away from a standard police appearance and more toward security or special service attire. All defensive and offensive gear conforms to standard Canadian police practice and compliance with a use of force continuum well known to all police officers.
Bruce Powerâ€™s perimeter security levels were dramatically improved with triple levels of fencing with increasing degrees of deterrence on each one. All fencing is monitored both visually and electronically with zero possibility of undetected breach. Not discussed are the levels of airborne protection but it has been long recognized that each nuclear core facility has the capability of withstanding a direct hit by a commercial airliner... fully fuelled... if it gets that far.
Protection 24 - 7
Bob Boyd, Operations Manager for Security Division,, confirmed Lacroixâ€™s remarks by adding that "no one knows the plant better than those that work here and our security force knows it even more intimately than most of the over 5,000 workers on site."
Boyd, a former tactics and weapons instructor with the RCMP, speaks with confidence as he describes the amount of time, energy and money invested in the security infrastructure surrounding the facility and all its assets. "We decided the only way to move into securing the environment was to beef up the fencing and monitoring systems throughout the plant and environs that surround it."
The challenge of remoteness is both a benefit and curse. Situated in the rolling farm lands of Ontarioâ€™s Bruce County, the Bruce Power facility faces Lake Huron half way between the communities of Kincardine and Port Elgin. The benefits of this remoteness is that intruders or strangers are relatively easily recognized. The down side is that help is a long way off. This was the major factor in creating such a robust onsite response force.
Although much of the improvements made can not be divulged Boyd pointed out that there is no movement on or near the plant that can not be monitored and recorded by security staff directly. "It is our goal that our 5,000 workers will simply confirm what we already know. We can then send in the appropriate response to the threat we find."
The threat of invasion by an all out attack is a daunting one indeed. In the worst case scenario it would be a sudden and unexpected armed breach of the facility. Boyd points out that at varying levels beneath this there would be scenarios they could handle but some would tax their capabilities even more than a direct assault.
"An anti-nuclear protestor type attack would be the worst in my opinion," Boyd suggests. "After evaluating this as the type of attack, and that the attackers are actually protesters, then less lethal options would be deployed. It would be difficult, however, to determine if the protestors are legitimate or are terrorists simply using that tactic to delay or overpower lower level force delivered on our part."
"We can take all the care we can to identify the type of threat presented to us but if there is any indication that the security of the nuclear material is at risk we can not afford to risk not raising the level of force. We are all confident that the closer an attacker gets to the core the higher the level of force we will deliver. We are equally confident that no attacker will reach that core."
Ensuring the readiness to take on the challenge of potential attackers is the job of Section Manager John Latouf. He is in charge of Nuclear Security Training for Bruce Power and is responsible for keeping the NRT sharp. John came to Bruce Power with 20 years experience in the OPP, and most of that with the TRU team. He is a former Provincial Coordinator for the Explosive Disposal Unit and is a certified bomb tech.
"One of my jobs is to test the response capabilities of these officers on a continual basis," John states. "We are aware that we are security and not the police. Our people are therefore not tested daily by real world events and responses to them. Due to this itâ€™s important that we continually test and probe our security net to ensure itâ€™s at its peak. One of the ways I do this is by designing and executing a wide variety of breaches of security to ensure the officers stay sharp. For safety reasons only high level staff are aware of when and where the tests are to happen. "
"Monitoring the location and movement of nuclear material is ultimately what we are all about," Chief Lacroix points out. "We check the people and vehicles coming in for contraband material and monitor them as they go out for nuclear material. In my estimation no one does that better than this facility and our people."
To back up the officer selection process the top managers of Bruce Power understood the concept of paying staff to the level of competence to which they are required to perform. In a lot of industrial security facilities the poorest paid people tend to be the security personnel. This was of particular concern to Bruce Power because most people working there were highly paid professionals or tradesmen. For underpaid security personnel it became an issue of job satisfaction and self esteem. Low pay also limited the talent pool available for applicants and affected the ability to train them to higher levels of proficiency and retain them once trained.
Due to the recognition of pay to abilities negotiations with the Power Workers Union for the security personnel is not as difficult an issue as it once was. Security personnel are paid considerably better than in the past with tactical officers beginning pay at around $65,000. On top of this there are ample motivation bonuses for such things as education and physical fitness. Memos of understanding with the Union has resulted in a no strike clause which recognizes the importance of security over labour issues. Grievances are handled in a normal fashion but walking off the job is not one of the options available.
Chief Lacroix points out that "If the competition in Albuquerque taught us anything it was that our training style is among the best in the world and we take great satisfaction from this. But we also know we canâ€™t sit on our laurels either. We have been invited back to defend our title next year and a lot of other people learned from us this year. But in the nuclear world of security this is a good thing."
As Lacroix points out, "in the final analysis our officers are well fed, well bred and well lead. And if all this fits we canâ€™t lose."