US Nuclear Plant Got Hacked, But Experts Say It’s Not A Big Problem


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Nuclear energy experts aren’t concerned that federal investigators are looking into the attempted hacking of a U.S. nuclear power plant, primarily because of the infrastructure in place.

Scientific experts remain calm regarding the issue because all computer systems used to operate nuclear reactors are separated from normal business operations by several layers of security measures.

“US utilities with nuclear assets have very robust cyber security programs dating back to the days of Y2K,” David Blee, executive director of the Nuclear Infrastructure Council, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Operational plant systems controls are segregated from normal business software by several layers of protection, including physical means.”

An anonymous source told ABC News Wednesday that hackers breached business and administrative computers at an unnamed U.S. nuclear power plant. There is no evidence that any computer systems involved in the operation of reactors were breached.

ABC News did not identify the U.S. nuclear facility targeted by hackers. It’s also not clear who was behind the attack and whether the breach was part of recent attempts to hack power grids worldwide.

“We are not aware of a cyber security incident impacting any of our facilities,” John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute which represents U.S. reactors, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Such an incident would be required to be reported to our regulator, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC], and would be an event of public notification.”

The fact that no officials reported the cyber attack to the NRC indicates that the breach wasn’t very dangerous. Many U.S. nuclear reactors are operated in full analog mode with no digital inputs. Computers that aren’t connected to the internet manage some reactors, but they’re only there to monitor and increase efficiency.

“Therefore, a breach of a business software process has no safety significance with respect to nuclear reactors, transmission and distribution systems or their controls,” Blee said. “While it is important to understand the nature of the breach and to take corrective action, this event appears to have posed no risk to the public or plant.”

A Freedom of Information Act request filed by USA Today revealed that hackers successfully infiltrated the Department of Energy’s (DOE) computer system more than 150 times between 2010 and 2014. The DOE was targeted 1,131 times over the same period.

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