Kansas U.S Senator Jerry Moran said through Twitter today that hacking incidents against several nuclear power companies are "deeply concerning." He wants to find more security options for nuclear power companies, including one near Iola, Kansas. It helps supply electricity to much of Southeast Kansas.
There has been a continuous problem of hackers infiltrating several nuclear power plant companies.
"It's our understanding that the campaign is ongoing," says Bill Gross with the Nuclear Energy Institute, an organization that helps develop government policies affecting nuclear energy. Gross has been getting regular updates on the hacking incidents, including ones happening at the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant in Burlington, Kansas, a little more than 100 miles northwest of Pittsburg.
"I don't want to downplay the significance of the cyber threat," says Gross. "But I also can't diminish the significant good work this industry has done to protect these facilities."
A worker at the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation says she doesn't comment on security issues. The company is releasing a statement that addresses what hackers haven't affected.
"There has been absolutely no operational impact at Wolf Creek," says Jenny Hageman with the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation. "The reason this is true is because the operational computer systems are completely separate from the corporate network."
The power plant company says their corporate computer system got hacked, not computers at the nuclear power plant.
"The nuclear power plants have isolated the plant systems from any outside network, including their local business network," says Gross.
But a New York Times article on the hacking incidents stated, "In most cases, the attacks targeted...industrial control engineers who have direct access to systems that, if damaged, could lead to an explosion, fire, or a spill of dangerous material."
"I can't speak to the accuracy of the statement," says Gross. "I don't have the details regarding specifics of what the threat actor was attempting to accomplish. And I can't speculate as to what that is. I can tell you that the programs that we have in place are really designed to preclude that eventuality."
Nuclear power experts promise ongoing security analysis, hoping to make sure continuous cyber attacks don't escalate.
"We maintain open communications with the government. They have been putting out information related to it that utilities can use to enhance their security systems. And we are relying on them providing that information," says Gross.
The Wolf Creek nuclear power plant supplies about one fifth of the electricity in Southeast Kansas. The rest comes from wind, natural gas, and coal power plants. A Westar Energy representative says they have plans in place to rely more on the non-nuclear options in case of an emergency.