Information Notice No. 90-12: Monitoring or Interruption of Plant Communications
NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION
OFFICE OF NUCLEAR REACTOR REGULATION
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20555
February 28, 1990
Information Notice No. 90-12: MONITORING OR INTERRUPTION OF
All holders of operating licenses or construction permits for nuclear power
This information notice is intended to inform licensees of the potential for
monitoring and/or disruption of onsite radio communications at power
reactors. It is expected that recipients will review the information for
applicability to their facilities and consider actions, as appropriate, to
avoid similar problems. However, suggestions contained in this information
notice do not constitute NRC requirements; therefore, no specific action or
written response is required.
Description of Circumstances:
Between January 1989 and January 1990, an individual located offsite
monitored and recorded onsite communications originating from the control
room at Seabrook. No security transmissions were recorded, only routine
outgoing operational messages from the control room. NRC representatives
from both operations and safeguards randomly sampled portions of these taped
communications. No safeguards or other sensitive information which could
have jeopardized safety was found to have been intercepted. In an
additional incident at Seabrook, an unauthorized transmission interrupted
control room communications by transmitting on the same frequency. It was
not determined if the outside transmitting source was on or offsite.
Although no safety or security compromise appears to have been involved in
the Seabrook incidents, they demonstrate the potential for such compromise,
considering power reactor transmittal of routine operational and security
radio messages on unencrypted (clear) radio frequencies, and the potential
for interruption from external sources. The intent of this notice is to
call licensees' attention to the potential for similar type communication
events at their facilities and the possible need for additional
communications discipline for plant operations and security.
February 28, 1990
Page 2 of 2
In regard to plant security, 10 CFR 73.21 prohibits the transmission of
safeguards information except by protected telecommunications circuits.
This includes onsite and offsite radio and telephone communications.
NUREG-0794, "Protection of Unclassified Safeguards Information," suggests
that if protected (encrypted) frequencies are not used, routine radio
transmissions between site security personnel be limited to message formats
or codes that do not disclose facility safeguards features or response
There are no specific requirements related to the security of radios and
telephones for transmission of information on site in support of operations.
Radios have been increasingly used as a means to provide more mobile and
efficient communications links between plant operators. However, radio
communications are not private. In view of the Seabrook event, addressees
may wish to examine communications discipline and basic operations
procedures that they now have.
Various commercial scanners are available that can pick up site frequencies
and are simple to operate. An individual can listen in on all radio traffic
for communications that are not secure. Encrypted systems can help in
overcoming the vulnerability of radio transmissions to exploitation.
However, these systems may still be susceptible to monitoring.
The unauthorized transmission at Seabrook demonstrates other methods that
might exploit radio communications vulnerabilities. Jamming and deception
could be used in radio transmissions although this did not appear to be the
intent at Seabrook.
Federal law prohibits any person from intentionally and willfully causing or
attempting to cause physical damage to a utilization facility or cause an
interruption of normal operations through the unauthorized use of or
tampering with the machinery, components, or controls of any such facility,
and prescribes penalties for such attempts. (Section 236 of the "Atomic
The sensitivity of onsite communications and the potential to aid malevolent
acts varies considerably. Proper communications discipline and basic radio
operating procedures, commensurate with the operations and security
significance of the communications, can lessen vulnerability to monitoring,
jamming, and deception.
This information notice requires no specific action or written response. If
you have any questions about the information in this notice, please contact
the technical contact listed below or the appropriate NRR project manager.
Charles E. Rossi, Director
Division of Operational Events Assessment
Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation
Technical Contact: Michael S. Warren, NRR
Attachment: List of Recently Issued NRC Information Notices
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, May 22, 2015