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Cyber Intelligence & Security

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This realist ethnography describes the heretofore unexamined culture of commercial nuclear power security officers over a one-year period from an active participant observer’s perspective. Data include field notes taken during observations at various sites and 15 interviews with security leaders working at or who had recently worked at 12 different commercial nuclear power plants and had previously worked at a dozen other commercial nuclear power plants, thus representing a broad overview of the commercial nuclear security culture. The data also include more than 58 unclassified documents from these sites, industry organizations, and regulatory agencies. An analysis of the data reveals 16 key themes that are characteristic of the nuclear security officer culture. The study describes how, although safety and security are of paramount concern at a commercial nuclear plant, the cultures of security workers and safety workers differ significantly. Not only is the nuclear security officer culture different from that of the safety culture at the same plant, but it often conflicts with it in its attitudes, goals, procedures, supervision, and job satisfaction. The commercial nuclear security officer culture is unique in many ways, including the isolation of security officers— institutionally, physically, and socially—from the other plant workers; their working conditions and benefits; their need to work oftentimes long, boring, unpredictable shifts and carry heavy equipment to remote sites; and their responsibility to respond immediately and, if necessary, with deadly force, even putting their lives on the line. iii Supplementing the data analysis, and in keeping with a realistic ethnography, are a series of vignettes describing the typical day in a nuclear security officer’s life. The study also points out differences between the commercial nuclear security culture and that of the private non-nuclear security cultures. The study concludes with recommendations for improving the commercial nuclear security officer culture and for future research into a culture we know little about but whose members are invested with one of the greatest responsibilities in our country—protecting us from potential acts of terrorism perpetrated on nuclear plants and the resultant exposure to the effects of nuclear waste, which can last for generations.

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Douglas J. Evans was not affiliated with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at the time this dissertation was published.

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