India tightens security at nuclear facilities

NEW DELHI Tue Dec 1, 2009 7:50am EST

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India has tightened security at its nuclear facilities, assigning a rapid response military team to complement civil protection measures after intelligence warnings the sites were a prime target for militants.

There are 22 nuclear reactors across the country, some of them close to crowded cities such as Mumbai, and guarding them is seen as a security challenge for a country of 1.1 billion people. Army officials told Reuters that this was the first time the country was strengthening coordination between its civilian forces and military to secure nuclear facilities.

"The security arrangement in place at all vital installations is unprecedented to tackle all kinds of threats," an army officer said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Federal forces guarding vital installations traditionally also provide security to nuclear facilities, but junior Home Minister Mullappally Ramachandran said the military was also being brought in and air defense cover provided.

"In view of the prevailing security scenario, the nuclear installations continue to remain prime target of the terrorist outfits," Ramachandran told parliament on Tuesday.

The security move comes within weeks of intelligence warnings that militants looking for targets may have carried out reconnaissance of some of the nuclear facilities.

Security around nuclear installations also came into renewed focus after officials this week confirmed the leak of a radioactive substance into drinking water at an atomic power plant. Media reports said the contamination was deliberate.

(Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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