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Anti-nuclear groups oppose bills to define when deadly force could be used to protect nuclear plants

Anti-nuclear power groups are fighting a bill that’s working its way through the Michigan House. The bill outlines when security officers at nuclear power plants can use deadly forceto stop intruders.

Kevin Kamps is a radioactive waste specialist with the nuclear watchdog group Beyond Nuclear.

“One of our fears is that innocent people, unsuspecting passersby, whether they’re in kayaks or walking down the beach, are going to find themselves in a very serious security predicament very quickly,” Kamps said.

Two nuclear power plants in southwest Michigan are within walking distance of state parks.

The Fermi plant in southeast Michigan has hundreds of acres of land in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, where visitors are encouraged.

The bills would allow security officers to use physical force to stop someone from trespassing on plant property. Guards could only use deadly force if they believe someone is trying to commit a crime or threaten the officer’s safety.

Kamps is also concerned about the safety of peaceful protestors.

Years ago he (and a few others) spent a week in jail for trespassing at the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Power Plant  to protest safety violations, among other things. In that case, he says protestors informed police and the FBI of their intentions to demonstrate beforehand.

“That’s the approach that we took, but there are other environmental groups that show up and hang banners without announcing themselves. So I’m really concerned that this new law could end in tragedy,” he said.

The House’s Energy and Technology Committee today approved the bills. State Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, says the “unlikely” possibility of someone wandering onto plant grounds was discussed in committee. But even then, he says, there would be several warnings before any force is used. He expects the bill go to the floor for a vote sometime next week.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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