Who has access to nuclear power stations?

ENGIE Electrabel does not determine who may enter a nuclear power station site. To do so, every individual must go through a procedure that starts with an application. This is followed by a screening by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (AFCN/FANC) and the National Safety Authority. The nature and depth of the examination depend on the function of the person in question and on the location where he or she is to work. Without a valid screening with favourable results, no access is allowed, regardless of whether the individual in question is a member of staff or an external worker.

What steps are taken to control who goes where?

Nuclear power stations have multiple zones, each of which has its own safety rules and access conditions. To go from one zone to another, a person must pass through multiple barriers and checkpoints. A few examples: metal detection, a biometric hand scan, individual access entrances with personal code, camera surveillance, vehicle inspection, etc.

 

Access control is organised by an authorised security firm. Only security officers who have completed the appropriate legally required training may conduct security and inspection tasks. Obviously, they are also screened by the government and by their contractor. Since 2016, military intervention teams have also been present 24/7 at all nuclear sites in Belgium.

What if someone manages to get in?

If someone unlawfully tries to enter one of the zones, various resources are available to detect the intrusion immediately and all critical installations can immediately be locked down. If an intruder is detected, the public emergency services are always called. Depending on the situation, they will intervene themselves or will provide backup.

 

There are also various measures to anticipate what is called an ‘insider threat’, i.e. an employee who, for whatever reason, deliberately aims to carry out sabotage. Accordingly, access is prohibited to certain zones, there are extra surveillance cameras at certain locations, staff are given training in security culture, etc.

Is it only people who are checked?

It is not just people who want to enter the site who are checked. Bags, vehicles, post and warehouse deliveries are also checked. The same goes for people and vehicles wishing to leave the site. Checks are conducted to look for explosives, weapons and radioactive sources, but also for mobile phones and cameras. Just like at an airport, people pass through a metal detector and personal bags are scanned with an X-ray scanner. Post and parcels are X-rayed and also checked by sniffer dogs. Obviously, we thoroughly check vehicles, although we try to keep vehicles off the site as much as possible. Our general rule is not to let any vehicles in, unless they are actually needed for our activities and no alternative is possible.

Is it still possible to visit the power stations?

Due to the current international situation and the terror threat, the procedures for allowing visitors access to Belgium's nuclear sites are becoming increasingly stringent. No doubt everyone can understand this. This change forced us to stop allowing visits to the power stations.

What about cyber-attacks?

ENGIE Electrabel is very vigilant when it comes to protecting sensitive data and preventing potential hacks and/or cyber-attacks. As a nuclear operator, we have to comply with a number of stringent legal requirements. The stress tests carried out at all European power stations after the Fukushima incident also checked for readiness in case of cyber-attacks. At that time, the AFCN/FANC concluded that we met all requirements. To curb the potential cyber-attack risk, we apply a number of specific security measures. These are regularly tested and continually improved. And just like with our other security measures, they are regularly subjected to internal and external checks. However, the biggest protection from cyber-attacks is perhaps the following: all operating systems at our nuclear power stations are totally separate from our computer network. They are mainly controlled analogically.