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Palo Verde nuclear power plant says it's prepared if Russia launches cyberattack

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Posted at 6:08 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-20 01:57:53-04

Since prior to the start of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration has made public a sensitive intelligence warning the Kremlin is preparing to launch cyberattacks on American businesses and infrastructure.

Those possible attacks include nuclear power plants like Palo Verde in the West Valley.

Palo Verde is the largest nuclear generating power plant in the United States, with 4,200 megawatts of electricity produced each hour, which is enough power to supply four million customers in four states.

The security-controlled area around Palo Verde is expansive, covering more than 4,000 acres, 6.5 square miles.

The closer you get, the tighter the security ring becomes.

But the invasion, if it comes, will not be by land or air, it will come from the internet.

"We work very closely with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the FBI, with all of the federal and state agencies. I can tell you this station is safe. It is absolutely safe," says Michael McLaughlin, Vice President of Site Services at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Station.

Last week, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, CISA, warned that evolving intelligence indicates the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks.

The disclosure from CISA said Russia is prepared to release dangerous new malware which could cripple industrial systems worldwide.

"When I go look at how threats are evolving, I'm confident the FBI, Department of Energy, NRC, and ourselves to keep evaluating that," McLaughlin said. "Threats will always change. We know that. But we continue to evolve to make sure the place remains a safe place."

McLaughlin says computers which help operate the power plant are on a closed network and not connected to the outside world, reducing the chances of a cyberattack.

Since February, the Arizona Cyber Command Center has operated at its highest level of alert. Hospitals, financial institutions as well as utility companies and local governments all put on notice.

"They warned us to be prepared for the worst and that we should expect an increase in cyberattacks, especially from criminal organizations and nation states as part of an escalation," said Tim Roemer, Arizona's Director of Homeland Security.

In its alert, CISA reminded every organization large and small to be prepared to respond to disruptive cyber incidents.