Local News

Security Questions Arise After Breach At Nuclear Plant

Posted November 7, 2005 11:13 a.m. EST

— A security breach is under investigation at the Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant after someone trespassed onto the plant's property last week, got within a mile of the reactor's secured area and hung a black flag on a communications tower 75 feet in the air.

Plant officials confirm that despite heightened security after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the trespasser managed to walk through woods onto private property where no trespassing signs are clearly posted.

Once at the tower, Harris officials said the person pulled up a chain-ink fence and climbed underneath it. Then the person climbed the tower and left the flag. Security officers noticed the flag while on routine patrol at 8 a.m. Friday morning.

"There were no threats received from whoever may have hung that, so we do not have an indication at this time of exactly what their intent was," said Julie Hans, a spokeswoman for Progress Energy, which runs Shearon Harris.

Plant officials said the tower was not damaged, communications were never compromised and the vandals never got closer than a mile from the protected area around the reactor.

For activists concerned about plant safety, that is close enough.

"This person or persons got to an area inside the plant that they were not supposed to get to," said Jim Warren, with the nuclear watchdog group, N.C. Warn. "The industry and the company says this can't happen."

Warren said the incident raises serious questions, including what point would security forces have been able to stop the intruders.

Harris officials insist intruders would have been stopped.

The Wake County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are investigating.