Saturday, November 4, 2023

"Driver breaches gate at S.C. NPP, tries to hit guards," (November 3, 2023)

Police investigating incident at South Carolina nuclear plant after car drives through security fences

The suspect drove off and shots were fired in the area, police say.
By Jon Haworth and Luke Barr November 3, 2023, 3:42 PM

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Police in South Carolina are investigating an incident involving a vehicle that drove through security fences at a nuclear power station on Thursday.

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office said it is in the early stages of an investigation into an incident that occurred at the Oconee Nuclear Station around 8:05 p.m. on Thursday.

Police say that a "white male driving a silver 2002 Toyota Camry drove through the exit side of the gate on the Highway 183 side of the facility," according to information obtained by Deputies from the Uniform Patrol Bureau.

"After the vehicle struck the pop-up barricades that security at the plant activated, the driver backed the vehicle up and proceeded down a dirt road, where Duke Energy security blocked the vehicle in, according to Deputies. The driver then drove through a fence after attempting to hit the security officers," a press release from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office read.

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The driver then reportedly drove out of the exit of the plant where he attempted to hit a security truck with a guard in it, police said. 

The driver then made his way back onto Highway 183 before driving into Pickens County and pulled onto some property on Jones Mill Road where shots were subsequently fired.

At this time, the source of the shots fired in the Jones Mill Road area is unknown, police said.

The Oconee Nuclear Station, Jan. 8, 2005, in Seneca, S.C.
Mary Ann Chastain/AP
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No one was injured and the nuclear station is "operating safely," Duke Energy said.

"Duke Energy has comprehensive security plans and a well-trained security workforce in place," the company said in a statement. "A vehicle entered an administrative gate, but was not able to access the plant due to our multiple layers of security."

The silver 2002 Toyota Camry has an Arkansas tag of 380VDR, according to information obtained during the investigation.

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"About one hour before tonight’s incident, the same vehicle and driver also showed up on the property of the Oconee Nuclear Station. After being asked to leave, the driver drove off," police said.

The FBI said it was aware of the incident, but deferred to the local sheriff's office for any information related to the case.

John Cohen, the former acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, said the incident comes as the United States is on high alert because of tensions overseas.

"Over the last several months, there have been threats of violence directed at our nation's power infrastructure by foreign terrorist groups, domestic violent extremists," Cohen, now an ABC News contributor, said. "Investigators will want to determine whether this incident was motivated by extremist or terrorist ideology or whether some other grievance or factor was the inspiration behind the attack."

Anybody with any information on the whereabouts of the driver of a 2002 Toyota Camry with an Arkansas tag of 380VDR is asked to contact emergency authorities immediately.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the body which oversees nuclear plants in the United States, told ABC News the incident was "monitored closely throughout the night," and said Duke Energy proactively informed the commission.

"The plant continues to operate safely, the public remains safe, and all U.S. nuclear power plants are operating at their normal security levels," a spokesperson said.

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