General Aviation Intelligence Assessments
The following GA intelligence assessments have examined the magnitude of destruction that terrorists could accomplish.
Government Accountability Office
In September 2004, a GAO report stated that “nuclear power facilities are among the most hardened industrial facilities in the United States. They are massive structures with thick exterior walls and interior barriers of reinforced concrete designed to withstand tornadoes (and projectiles propelled by tornadoes), hurricanes, fires, floods, and earthquakes.” While most facilities were not designed around the notion that terrorists might deliberately crash an aircraft into them, most were designed to withstand an accident involving an aircraft.
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
An AOPA-commissioned report revealed that a GA aircraft could not penetrate the concrete containment vessel of a nuclear power plant. Nor would an explosives-laden GA aircraft likely cause the release of radiation. A small aircraft attack on any auxiliary plant buildings would not cause a safety failure, and a GA aircraft could not ignite the zirconium cladding on spent nuclear fuel. In short, GA aircraft are not a threat to nuclear power plants.
Congressional Research Service
In its December 2005 report and most recently updated January 2008 report on Securing General Aviation, the Congressional Research Service stated that “the limited capabilities of the typical GA aircraft to carry conventional explosives, noting that even the 1,300-pound device involved in the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing would be beyond the carrying capability of a light GA aircraft. Thus, at least with regard to being used as a platform for conventional explosives, the threat posed by light GA aircraft is relatively small compared to trucks which have significantly larger payload capacities…. Executing an attack that involves loading a GA aircraft with a large quantity of explosives may be difficult without raising some suspicion at the airport, at least domestically where airport operators and pilots have been instructed to be vigilant for unusual activities.”
According to the Congressional Research Service, “Improving upon GA security without unduly impeding air commerce or limiting the freedom of movement by air remains a significant challenge. However, policymakers have received mixed signals about the relative security risk posed by GA
due to its diversity and a general lack of detailed information regarding the threat and vulnerability of various GA operations.”18
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