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Feds investigate shooting at Tennessee nuclear plant

KRISTIN M. HALL • Apr 22, 2013 at 5:32 PM

NASHVILLE — An East Tennessee nuclear power plant has added security patrols after a weekend incident in which an officer exchanged gunfire with a man who then fled on a boat.

The FBI and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are investigating the shooting that occurred around 2 a.m. Sunday at Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar nuclear power plant near Spring City, Tenn., about 60 miles southwest of Knoxville.

Officials say no recent threats have been made against the plant or its staff, but TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said security at the plant remains heightened and more security patrols are being performed there.

The incident began when a security officer was driving a routine patrol around the grounds and spotted a person on the bank of the Tennessee River, which lies on the eastern border of the facility.

Hopson said the man was on the perimeter of the TVA property and several hundred yards from the site's protected area where the reactor and power production facilities are. The plant has two nuclear units, but one is operating and the other is currently under construction.

Boaters are allowed in the river near the facility, but are not allowed on the banks, Hopson explained. He said the officer was by his vehicle up above the bank and was talking with the man to determine why he was there when the man shot at the officer multiple times.

The officer was not injured, but the gunfire broke one of the windows of the security vehicle, Hopson said. He said the officer returned fire multiple times and then got on his radio to call for assistance.

The man, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, fled on a small boat on the river. Later on Sunday, officials performed an extensive search of the area using a helicopter and searchers on boat and on land, Hopson said.

The NRC sent two security inspectors from its Atlanta office to review the incident and TVA response. Roger Hannah, a spokesman for NRC, said the inspectors are looking at how TVA handled the incident to determine if safety regulations were followed.

The FBI is also working with TVA and NRC to search for the intruder, and agents were at the scene to interview the officer and look for evidence, said Supervisory Special Agent Marshall Stone in Knoxville.

Stone said they only have a minimal description of the intruder and said that anyone with information about the incident should contact TVA or the FBI.

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