Authorities say a weekend gunfire exchange between a trespasser and a Tennessee nuclear plant officer is likely an isolated incident, but security officials at Plant Vogtle and similar sites were briefed as a precaution.
“Our security forces at plants Farley, Hatch and Vogtle were notified immediately of the situation,” said Mark Sullivan, a spokesman for Southern Nuclear. “Each plant has extensive security measures in place to protect the facility from intruders, and is overseen by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
The Tennessee Valley Authority incident occurred about 2 a.m. Sunday, when a Watts Bar Nuclear Plant officer spotted an intruder in a restricted area along the Tennessee River about 200 yards from the plant’s cooling towers.
The intruder fired at the officer, who returned fire and summoned backup as the assailant escaped, according to a report in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Roger Hannah said federal officials are aware of the incident but have found no evidence of a specific threat to other sites.
“Based on the evidence so far, there is nothing to indicate that this was more than an isolated incident,” Hannah said. “We have not asked any other facility to take any actions or raise their security level.”
Plant Vogtle is one of many nuclear facilities at which security measures were enhanced after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which spurred more than $1.2 billion in security upgrades at commercial nuclear plants.
According to Plant Vogtle’s media guide, those measures included adding surveillance equipment, vehicle barriers, wire entanglements, secure blast-proof doors and paramilitary forces with the weapons and technology to repel a terrorist attack.
“We have a relentless focus on the safe operation of our nuclear energy facilities,” Sullivan said. “As a result, they are among the safest and most secure industrial facilities in the United States.”