Perry: Threat to US nuclear reactors 'real', ongoing

2017-07-12 10:03

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington — Energy Secretary Rick Perry said on Tuesday that "state-sponsored" or criminal hackers are targeting US nuclear power plants and other energy providers, but said the government has resources to safeguard the nation's electric grid.

Perry told Fox Business Network that the threat of cyberattacks on the electric grid "is real, it's ongoing and we shouldn't be surprised when you think of the world we live in today".

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security(DHS) told energy providers last week that hackers may be trying to breach their computer systems.

Hackers appear to have tried to breach the business and administrative networks of unidentified facilities, DHS said.

At least one attack has been widely reported as occurring at Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp., which runs the Wolf Creek nuclear power station in Kansas.

Jenny Hageman, a plant spokesperson, declined to comment, "except to confirm there has been absolutely no operational impact to Wolf Creek. The reason that is true is because the operational computer systems are completely separate from the corporate network".

The safety and control systems for the nuclear reactor and other plant components are not connected to business networks or the internet, Hageman said. The plant continues to operate safely, she said.

DHS said in its report there was no threat to public safety. DHS and the FBI routinely advise the private sector of possible cyber threats to help officials protect potentially vulnerable networks.

The source of the intrusions is unknown, but Perry said the hackers "may be state-sponsored" or just "criminal elements" trying to penetrate vulnerable sites.

'The good news'

Perry said "the good news" is that the Energy Department has substantial resources to combat the threat "and we have been working on his for a long time".

Perry cited work by the Idaho National Laboratory to devise a "full-out grid" that helps officials detect problems and protect the grid.

"I want Americans to feel very comfortable we are doing everything possible to protect their information, but more importantly to protect the electrical grid from those that would try to penetrate in and do harm or do mischief," Perry said.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, said last week that no nuclear reactors were affected by the would-be hackers.

If any facilities were affected by a cyberattack, a publicly available report would have to be made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the nation's commercial nuclear fleet.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., asked the Trump administration to tell Congress how many nuclear plants in the US have been targeted by cyberattacks and how officials are addressing the threat.

"Given the consequences of a breach of safety at a nuclear power station... evidence that foreign governments have targeted US nuclear power stations must be treated with the utmost gravity," Markey wrote in a letter to Perry, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and other officials.

"These profound risks to public safety and US national security require a robust and coordinated response across federal agencies."

Read more on:    us  |  cyber attacks

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.