Lack of reasoning does stop nuclear plants

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Pablo Edronkin

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In the summer of 2010, the presence of armed men clad in camouflaged clothes near the Panex nuclear facility near Armadillo, Texas, caused an alarm and lock-down in the plant until the situation could be properly assessed.

It was a scary event; after all, armed men wearing camo clothes near a nuclear installation does sound scary and it is perfectly understandable that the plant and local authorities preferred to play safe. In the end it was a false alarm provoked by the presence of two men hunting legally with the corresponding permits in a neighbouring property, about three kilometres away from the secure installation. They were employees of the plant itself with a day off, and they were not doing anything illegal, but were they doing the correct thing?

The first conclusion of this strange incident is that it is indeed better to be safe than sorry and that the preventive measures taken were right. Until a real measure of the dangers implied in any sort of emergency is obtained, in such cases it is better to assume the worst-case scenario. That would be, a terrorist attack in concoction for which consequences could be far worse than a technical inconvenience.

But on the other hand, acting just legally will not save these hunters from the wrath of their bosses, who lost probably a small fortune due to the plant lock-down and will in all certainty, receive one or more inspections in their nuclear facility. And having said that, in the end, the incident was provoked by what could be understood as a series of mistakes committed by employees of the plant itself. Enjoying a day off doesn't excuse them from not having reasoned properly, and that could easily translate into questions that inspectors and investigators would put forward to the plant's managers: Do they have employees in such an industry that have little or no common sense?

Three kilometres might look like a great distance; you cannot say that someone is marauding around your home if he stays three thousand metres away, but consider this: Many anti-tank missiles, capable of inflicting serious damage in most types of protected or shielded structures, have such and even larger action ranges, meaning that three kilometres could be interpreted as a comfortable distance from which to point and shoot a lethal heavy weapon in order to perpetrate a terrorist attack. What could be the chances of survival of anyone ner such a structure in the case of an attack?

This shows the difference between a simple employee, even if he or she enjoys a comfortable position at work, and a leader. Our culture turns employees into little more than human machines that perform tasks that robots and computers are still unable to do; the price that is paid for that is lack of independent, intelligent decision. This doesn't mean that employees are fools, rather that they have been domesticated and turned incapable in seeing further than their cubicles. More should be expected from employees, but also from their leaders that shouldn't turn them into mere machines.

These employees didn't tell anyone about their intentions simply because they did not think about the issue; putting safety first wasn't or isn't part of their minds despite the fact that they work in a maximum-security installation. They seem to have been acting thorough their lives as Homer Simpson when he goes to work at Springfield's nuclear power plant. They didn't say anything about what they were going to do simply because nobody asked them to and because they do not have the initiative required to say that on their own.

Moreover: Someone who goes outdoors to climb, hunt, hike, fly or sail should tell someone about his or her plans, just in case. So, in the case of people that should be very careful in their workplace and should have assimilated the same care in their daily actions, such an omission is hard to forgive.

Simply nature; dawn in early fall, Patagonia.

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