Are These Towers Safe?

Why America's nuclear power plants are still so vulnerable to terrorist attack--and how to make them safer. A special investigation

The first hint of trouble would probably be no more than shadows flitting through the darkness outside one of the nation's nuclear power reactors. Beyond the fencing, black-clad snipers would take aim at sentries atop guard towers ringing the site. The guards tend to doubt they would be safe in their bullet-resistant enclosures. They call such perches iron coffins, which is what they could become if the terrorists used deadly but easily obtainable .50-cal. sniper rifles.

The saboteurs would break through fences by using bolt cutters or Bangalore torpedoes, pipe-shaped explosives developed by the British army in India nearly a century ago....

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