“BUCHANAN – Residents around Indian Point who hear gunshots or other disturbances coming from the nuclear plant this week should not worry – they’re only simulated attacks to improve overall security.

The force-on-force exercises, as they’re called, will be conducted today through Thursday in unrehearsed scenarios designed to test officers’ ability to respond.

“It’s likely that residents will hear the activity,” said Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, the company that owns and operates Indian Point. “Even residents of Stony Point have called in the past to inquire because they heard the gunshots.”

Nappi said the drills will involve only Indian Point personnel, with no interaction with local or state police.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials know of the exercises, but will not be participating. An official NRC-evaluated drill will take place about a year from now, on the three-year cycle the agency employs to test readiness.

“This is basically an in-house scrimmage, a training exercise,” said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan. “They do their own exercises because they need to stay sharp and they need to train for the evaluated exercises.”

Company and regulatory officials declined to detail what aspects of security will be tested or how many people are involved. Nappi said the company is bringing in replacements to run the nuclear plants while the regular workers participate in the practice runs.

“This exercise will provide us the opportunity to test our security and defensive capabilities at Indian Point,” site Vice President Joe Pollock said. “We will also take feedback and use it to further improve our already robust security program.”

During the drills and exercise, people near the site may hear the sound of simulated gunfire or other loud noises as participants carry out scenarios that are intended to be as realistic as possible.

The exercises involve attempts to gain access to plants in a simulated terrorist attack, and the response of defending security forces.

“We are informing the public now about these events so there is no undue alarm caused by what they may hear around the site,” Pollock said. “Please do not go to Indian Point unless previously authorized. While we would like to be able to publicly demonstrate our skills and defensive plan, in the interest of maintaining the highest possible level of security, we simply cannot.”

The exercises will go on in the evening as well as during the day.

Only people with top federal security clearances will be allowed to observe the exercise. Security experts will analyze the participants’ actions at each step of the exercise to determine how responses might be improved or applied to other facilities, the company said in announcing the exercises.

Entergy will be using a technical innovation for the exercise known as MILES gear, or Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement Systems. Participants using the gear are connected wirelessly to a central computer.

The gear includes laser “bullets” and vests with laser-detection equipment, and it duplicates the effects, including the sound, of live ammunition.

The movement and shooting accuracy of the security officers and other exercise data are collected by the computer for analysis. The gear is used for military and counterterrorism training across the country to be as realistic as possible without using real bullets.”

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