U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials have received
information suggesting terrorists are planning an attack July 4 on a
nuclear power plant, but they do not consider the threat credible enough
to warrant a new alert, authorities said yesterday.
The information, developed within the past week, warned of plans to
strike a nuclear facility in a region of the country that includes the
Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, a government source said. But
authorities have deemed it to be of "questionable reliability" and
described it as uncorroborated "third-hand information."
The FBI, which has issued occasional security advisories to the
operators of the nation's 103 commercial nuclear power reactors since the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, did not put out notice of the latest threat,
reflecting official doubts about its veracity. In recent weeks, the FBI
has notified its 56 field offices about vague threats against shopping
malls, supermarkets, restaurants and other places, but not nuclear
"We have not had, to date, a credible threat against a single, specific
nuclear power plant in the United States," said William Beecher, director
of public affairs for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC earlier
ordered plants to step up security.
The Washington Times first reported details of the threat
Many of the recent warnings have resulted from the interrogation of Abu
Zubaida, a top al Qaeda lieutenant captured in Pakistan. Among other
things, Abu Zubaida recently told U.S. interrogators that Osama bin
Laden's network was working on a bomb that could disperse radiation. He
also was the catalyst for a warning issued by the FBI last month that
terrorists might target banks in northeastern and mid-Atlantic states.
Sources said Zubaida did not provide the information about nuclear
plants but declined to describe where it originated. Under a five-tiered
alert system used by the Office of Homeland Security, officials have the
flexibility to put specific regions or industries on higher alert levels,
but that step has not been taken. The nation remains on a yellow, or
elevated, state of alert, they said.
"There's nothing particularly new here," said Gordon Johndroe, a
spokesman for Ridge. "We have known for some time that al Qaeda is
interested in our nuclear facilities as well as other parts of our