In order to determine how much physical protection is enough, the NRC monitors intelligence information to keep abreast of foreign and domestic events and remains aware of the capabilities of potential adversaries. We use this information, and other sources, to determine the physical protection requirements of our regulations and to establish and maintain design basis threats (DBTs). Nuclear power plants and selected fuel cycle facilities must be defended against the DBTs. The DBTs may be found in NRC regulation 10 CFR 73.1. Most of the threat analysis work is not publicly available.
For more information about threat assessment, see the following topics:
Information Assessment Team
The NRC Information Assessment Team (IAT) is an on-call team composed of NRC Headquarters and Regional staff who assess all reported threats to NRC licensed facilities or activities. An IAT member can be contacted at any time through the NRC's 24-hour Incident Response Operations Center. See our page on Report a Safety or Security Concern.
Periodically the Information Assessment Team initiates threat advisories that are disseminated to selected NRC licensees. The advisories communicate significant threat-related information that licensees should be aware of in the conduct of their security programs.
Annual Threat Environment Review
The NRC has two distinct design basic threats. One design basis threat statement provides a reasonable hypothetical threat for radiological sabotage. The other threat statement addresses theft and diversion of strategic special nuclear material, which is material that could be used in a nuclear device or weapon. In order to assure that these threat statements remain a valid basis for the design of physical protection systems, the staff routinely reviews and analyzes a range of intelligence information. Every 12 months the Intelligence Liaison and Threat Assessment Branch documents its assessment for the threat environment for that 12 month period and formally provides its conclusions to the Commission called, "Annual Threat Environment Review." If significant information was received that called into question the adequacy of the design basis threat statements, the staff would immediately notify the Commission.
Intelligence Liaison and Threat Assessment Branch
NRC staff conduct official liaison with the Intelligence and Law Enforcement Communities on intelligence and threat matters. Staff provide prompt assessment of security threats to licensed nuclear facilities, materials, and activities. Staff lead the Information Assessment Team, and through this produce Threat Advisories. Staff also conduct liaison activities with the Intelligence Community, law enforcement, and other Federal agencies in support of its intelligence and threat mission. Staff also provides other agencies a variety of technical information and support commercial nuclear power plants, research reactors, and industrial and medical isotopes.
NRC staff assess numerous intelligence issues. One of their chief responsibilities includes monitoring terrorist tactics, techniques, and procedures in the process of conducting the DBT Annual Threat Environment Review. Other issues addressed by staff include terrorism (foreign and domestic) involving nuclear facilities and materials; insider malevolence against nuclear facilities; and nuclear smuggling and illicit sales and scams. Staff also participate in nuclear safeguards policy formulation and review for the NRC, as well as maintain an awareness of proliferation, cyber, and counterintelligence issues. Relevant to the aforementioned activities as NRC's liaison with the Law Enforcement and Intelligence Communities, staff work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy (DOE), the national laboratories, and other Federal agencies.
Illicit Sale and Smuggling of Nuclear Materials
In recent years there have been numerous incidents in which individuals have offered to sell nuclear and radioactive material or have claimed to have access to such material. Some of the offers to sell material have occurred in the United States or involved business interests in this country. In such instances, the Intelligence Liaison and Threat Assessment Branch has worked with the FBI and DOE to determine the credibility of the offer and whether or not a blackmarket in these materials is developing.
Intelligence Community Liaison
NRC maintains routine contact with the FBI, DOE, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs Service, the Defense Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, and other agencies concerned with terrorism.
- Interagency Working Groups
NRC staff participate in a number of interagency work groups and committees that address issues relating to terrorism, information sharing, planning, as well as others.
- Technical and Training Support
NRC staff can provide a wide range of technical support and information to other Federal agencies. The staff work closely with the DOE and FBI in providing courses of instruction regarding the technical response to nuclear-related threats and weapons of mass destruction.
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, March 11, 2020