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Terrorists May Have Targeted Arizona Nuclear Plant

Terrorists May Have Targeted Arizona Nuclear Plant

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Terrorists may have targeted the Palo Verde nuclear power plant, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Thursday, and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has sent National Guard troops to provide additional security at the plant.

Abraham told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a hearing that he couldn't go into details about intelligence reports concerning the plant, the nation's largest commercial nuclear power facility. But in response to a question by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., he acknowledged there were indications that it might have become a target for terrorist.

"Actions are being taken by all the appropriate agencies to address the concerns that have been raised," Abraham said.

The Washington Times reported Thursday that the government is seeing Iraqi "sleeper cells" that might have planned an attack on the plant.

A spokesman for Arizona Public Service Co., which operates the facility, didn't immediately return a phone call.

The Transportation Security Administration sent a security directive to airports and airlines Tuesday night, telling them to post more law enforcement officers in and around terminals and airport perimeters. Some airports were ordered to conduct random vehicle inspections. Some restricted parking in lots close to terminals.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, criticized the TSA for failing to communicate quickly with key law enforcement officials the last time a terrorism threat alert was raised. This time, her office checked and found the people most involved with homeland security had learned in advance about the Monday night decision to go to code orange, the second highest terror alert.

"It's getting better," said Snowe's spokesman, David Lackey. "They've worked through the initial delays."

The Coast Guard is now escorting ships into port and stepping up patrols of waterways. Four special maritime security units of 100 Coast Guardsmen each are in position in undisclosed ports.

Pipeline operators were advised by the Transportation Department to take a series of actions to protect the 2.3 million miles of pipe within the United States. At code orange, the pipeline industry has a checklist of 44 more things to do, such as posting security at critical points 24 hours a day.

The Federal Transit Administration, which has been conducting emergency forums with transit systems since Sept. 11, advises them to move cars and trash containers away from buildings, make sure their intruder alarms are working and disable baggage lockers.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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