RHEA COUNTY, TN April 26 2017
The nuclear industry has a new policy leaving local workers worried about their safety.
Channel 3 has learned Tennessee Valley Authority security officers will soon no longer be allowed to carry handguns.
It's a change that one employee calls dangerous.
He believes he may be risking his job to talk about the change but wants the public to be aware.
Paul Tackett says nuclear power plants are considered high value targets to terrorists and it's the job of security officers to keep everyone safe.
"Radiological release, that's what they're after. Terrorists are after to kill as many as they can in the quickest way," he said.
Tackett has worked as a Senior Nuclear Security Officer at TVA's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant for seven years.
He's required to carry a handgun and pepper spray and knows the importance of security first hand.
"Anything is possible to happen at anytime. It was just a few years ago when we had an officer shot at out here," he added.
He remembers when someone shot at a TVA officer four years ago. That officer wasn't hurt, but Tackett fears a change in policy could put officers and the public at risk.
"They're talking about taking away our handguns. I mean, if we're utilities at night, we have no way of protecting ourselves," he said.
Channel 3 confirmed change is ahead for TVA.
Officials wouldn't go on camera, but released the following statement:
"The safety and security of our nuclear plants, personnel and the public are TVA's top priority. We continually work with the nuclear industry to evaluate processes and procedures to determine the value they add to the safe, secure operations of the nation's nuclear plants.
Because other protective measures are in place to ensure the security of nuclear sites, the nuclear industry is in the process of eliminating handguns that are not required for the protective strategy of nuclear power plants. These changes have been successfully implemented by other utilities. We will only take actions that improve our ability to protect our nuclear plants after following the regulatory review process.
Security protocols prevent us from providing any additional details on our plant's protective strategy." - Scott Fiedler, TVA Spokesman.
Tackett is still worried.
"Everyone I talk to over there says the same thing, I mean, they're just like me, saying what are we going to do if something happens?" he said.
Tackett said he will no longer be able to carry a handgun after August 15th. TVA tells Channel 3 the changes will be complete by the end of the year.