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Morning Security Brief: NRC System Criticized, NATO Planes Deployed Near Ukraine, and Missing Flight Update

By Holly Gilbert

►The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on Tuesday stating that the communication system used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) may be ineffective in an emergency scenario. The communication system, called the Emergency Response Data System (ERDS) is used to communicate between the operators running the nuclear reactors with regulators and technical experts. But the GAO report says this system may be rendered inoperable in the event of an emergency, unless it is upgraded. The GAO report uses Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as an example, stating that after the May 2011 tsunami that site’s automated data system was largely disabled. According to the Wall Street Journal, the NRC responded to the GAO report by saying that “it is first completing higher priority nuclear safety enhancements before deciding whether or how to upgrade the ERDS. Those safety enhancements may impact how an upgrade to the system would be handled.”

► TIME reports that NATO is deploying at least two surveillance planes to monitor the situation in Ukraine, flying over neighboring countries Romania and Poland. The planes, known as AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control Systems), are reconnaissance craft. A spokesman for NATO stated that the planes will not enter Russian or Ukrainian airspace, but pointed out that the surveillance planes can observe more than 300,000 square kilometers. According to the article, other planes are planned to fly near Ukraine. “The U.S. has deployed fighter planes to countries such as Poland and Lithuania, and NATO’s 28-member states decided on Monday to step up monitoring Ukraine by deploying AWACS planes.” On Sunday, residents of the Ukrainian region Crimea will vote in a referendum on whether or not to become a part of Russia.

► As the search for any sign of missing Malyasian Airlines flight 370 continues, more details are emerging as to what may have gone wrong. Today, Malaysian officials revealed they detected data on their military radar that indicated the airliner may have veered sharply off course, last sending signals from hundreds of miles away from its last known position. But the possibility remains that the data signals could have come from another aircraft. According to an article in the New York Times, the discovery was made four days ago, but “officials said they had given the radar data to American investigators who would assist in helping determine whether the radar blips were likely to have come from the Boeing 777.”  In related news, ABC News is reporting that the last words spoken by the pilot of that flight did not indicate that anything was amiss, although the plane disappeared from radar shortly after. After air traffic control from Malaysia indicated they were handing the plane over to Vietnam’s operators, the pilot responded, “All right, good night.”

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