Nuclear Power Plant On Lockdown
Worker's Canned Pipe Contained Residue, NRC Says

POSTED: 10:38 am PDT November 2, 2007
UPDATED: 11:53 am PDT November 2, 2007

WINTERSBERG, Ariz. -- Security officials at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Wintersberg detained a contract worker with an explosive device in the back of his truck, and the plant was put on lockdown.

The device was described as a small capped pipe that contained suspicious residue, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

Capt. Paul Chagolla with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said deputies have rendered the device safe and that investigators were interviewing the worker.

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said the worker, who is involved in upgrades at the facility, was stopped and detained at the entrance of the plant Friday morning.

Security officials immediately launched an investigation and put the nuclear station on lockdown, prohibiting anyone from entering or leaving the facility.

A police dog detected the suspicious residue as the worker was reporting to the job site around 8 a.m., said Damon Gross of Arizona Public Service Co., which manages the plant.

When the residue couldn't be identified immediately, plant operators notified the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Jim Melfi, an inspector with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said an "unusual event" has been declared at the facility. This is the lowest of four emergency categories that the plant can declare.

Plant officials stressed there is no danger to the public.

The 4,050-acre site was operating normally, said Palo Verde spokesman Jim McDonald.

"Our security personnel acted cautiously and appropriately, demonstrating that our security process and procedures work as designed," said Randy Edington, the chief APS nuclear officer.

"These actions are clearly in line with our goal of ensuring the health and safety of the public and our employees," he said in a statement.

Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is the largest nuclear electric generating site in the U.S. The facility is at Wintersberg, 34 miles west of Phoenix.

Workers have been in the process of replacing enormous components, like the plant's steam generators.

Each steam generator is 75-feet long and weighs about 800 tons.

By replacing the parts, the power plant will be good to go for at least another 20 years, plant officials said.

Palo Verde meets the energy needs of about one-million homes in the Southwest.