Power plants to replace police guards with OPG armed security force

DURHAM REGION, ONTARIO - Nuclear power stations in Durham Region are about to undergo a changing of the guard.

Armed, trained employees of Ontario Power Generation will replace police who have been guarding the Darlington and Pickering plants since 2001.

Starting in 2008, the new security force will be phased in over six years until an agreement with Durham Regional Police Service ends, OPG spokesperson Jacquie McInnes said, adding the plan to hire and train OPG's own armed security officers was a mutual decision with police.

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ordered nuclear power stations to up security, with armed guards around the clock.

OPG formed a partnership with Durham police to get an armed and expert response force on-site quickly while it focused on other security measures, McInnes said.

Over the past six years, OPG has opened security buildings at both sites, adding explosives detectors, X-ray equipment, geometric scanners and sophisticated surveillance and identification systems.

The job of the security force "is to ensure there's no threat to the plant, facilities, workers or general public," McInnes said.

Durham police were "the best choice to provide that security," said deputy chief Sherry Whiteway, noting police will help train and work alongside new guards until the transition is completed in 2013.

"It's been an excellent partnership," she said.

As officers are replaced at the power stations, they'll return to regular police duties.

Neither OPG nor police would say how many officers work at the plants, citing security reasons.

Applicants for security jobs will face the same rigorous testing and screening as police candidates, but will receive similar training, though not as extensive and without the law component, Whiteway said.

McInnes called the training "much like (that of) a firefighter – training for different eventualities and for a high level of response."



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