A U.S. senator is calling for a federal probe into the system of background checks for employees at nuclear plants, after learning that a suspected al Qaeda member from New Jersey worked at five such sites, says a CNN report.
"We simply cannot tolerate at any time having someone with terrorist ties working at a nuclear plant, period," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York. "It seems like common sense but clearly we need to tighten up the system."
According to the report, the FBI said last week that it is investigating Sharif Mobley, a 26-year-old from Buena, New Jersey, as a suspected member of al Qaeda. Mobley also is accused of shooting and killing a security agent and severely injuring another while trying to flee the Republican Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, last weekend.
Mobley's father said Saturday, "My son is no terrorist." He would not comment further.
Mobley worked at nuclear plants operated by PSEG Nuclear for different contractors from 2002 to 2008, doing routine labor such as carrying supplies and assisting with maintenance activities, the report said. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it was working with the FBI to determine whether Mobley had access to any sensitive areas of the nuclear plants where he once worked, spokeswoman Holly Harrington said.
Schumer said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector general should conduct an "immediate and thorough review" of the its procedures for background checks on new and transfer employees. The senator said the monitoring of current employees needs improvement. He said the current background checks include an examination of criminal and employment histories, a psychological assessment and behavioral observation.
However, "the NRC delegates the authority to complete background checks, which results in a certain degree of disparity in how checks are carried out, and what information is ultimately covered," the report said, adding that the checks are not required to cover such information as past travel and ties with other countries.