Last week the Savannah River Site (“SRS”) in South Carolina, a large nuclear facility owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”), went into a lock down after electronic and canine scans of a commercial delivery truck attempting to enter the facility indicated possible explosive residue on the vehicle. Fortunately, the lock down was lifted a few hours later after law enforcement determined that there were no explosives on the truck. The incident nonetheless attracted significant media attention presumably in view of the activities conducted at the facility, which is operated by private companies under contract with the DOE. SRS processes and stores nuclear materials in support of U.S. national defense. It also develops and deploys technologies to treat nuclear and hazardous waste left from the Cold War.
Based on publicly-available information about last week’s incident, SRS contractors did everything right: they screened the vehicle as it approached the facility, prohibited entry and locked the facility down when a potential threat was detected, and called in law enforcement to secure the area and investigate. There is, however, one more thing SRS contractors could have done — and still can do — obtain protection under the SAFETY Act, a post-9/11 risk mitigation program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) to incentivize the development and deployment of anti-terror technology.