On Sept. 12, 2001, Dan Steward drove to his job at Millstone Power Station. At the front gate was an armed guard pointing an M-16 at every car that arrived.
“It was like 'o-kay,' ” Steward said.
Two days short of 10 years later, Steward is now the first selectman and Millstone Power Station is still both the town’s largest taxpayer and biggest target. And while there is no longer an armed guard pointing a machine gun at every car, there is no question that the environment of both the town's government and its biggest business has completely changed, Steward said.
“It is totally not the same world,” said Police Chief Murray Pendleton, who is also the town's director of emergency management.
Pendleton was the police chief 10 years before 9/11 and still holds that position 10 years later. The two time periods are completely different, he said.
Prior to 9/11, the philosophy of each individual police department and fire department was that their department was the best and they were not going to waste time communicating with others, Pendleton said. Now, it’s the complete opposite, Pendleton said.
“I would say prior to 9/11, I may have not thought that the Waterford Police Department was the best department in Connecticut, but we were second to nobody,” Pendleton said. “And that is a very independent feeling. But now, we measure our success by how we play with others. And I still think Waterford is the best, but now it’s all about our partnerships.”
Millstone went under a transformation as well. Much like the nuclear release at the power station on Three Mile Island, and the recent problems with nuclear plants at Fukushima, 9/11 provided another wake-up call, Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Affairs Officer Neil Sheehan said.
“Certainly, 9/11 was a watershed event for the country as a whole and for nuclear power plants as well,” he said. “After 9/11, there was a great push to increase plant security.” Specifics
It became obvious that if a terrorist attack happened at Millstone or in any surrounding community, no single police force could handle it, Pendleton said. That forced nearby police departments, along with nearby fire departments, the state and the federal government, to all come together to form specific plans on how to deal with a major terrorist attack, he said.
And while that prepared the town against terrorism better, it made the day-to-day operations of policing better as well, Pendleton said. Soon different agencies began sharing information far more effectively than ever before, which made fighting crime in general far more effective, he said.
Additionally, partnerships that never existed before began to spring up, originally out of necessity because of the terrorist threat and then because it worked better, Pendleton said. One specific example in Waterford was the new which allows the town firefighters and police officers to talk on the same radio, along with Millstone, the Coast Guard and the Navy, he said. There have been strong talks with East Lyme to add it to the system, and possibly New London, he said.
“There has been a lot of good that has come out of this terrible tragedy,” Pendleton said.
Specifics Regarding Millstone
The security at Millstone Power Station has been strengthened post-9/11, Sheehan said. Higher standards for security guards were installed, an indoor firing range was built and emergency drills were more frequent and more difficult than ever, he said. Also, an office was formed at the NRC just for plant security, he said.
Studies were even done to see if a nuclear power plant could absorb an airplane hit, proving it could without a leak, Sheehan said. That said, stricter standards were put on how the structures were built, he said.
“It would be a very difficult target for somebody to attack,” he said.
Steward admitted that there was a cost to all this additional security. But he emphasized that it is also useful in other areas, even in mobilizing the town for the response for Tropical Storm Irene,. The worst thing that can happen is to be unprepared, he said.
“It's always something that could happen, and if we don’t prepare for it, shame on us,” Steward said. “And if we do prepare for it and it doesn’t happen, that’s OK too.”