No Serious Threat at South Carolina Nuclear Site

A bomb-sniffing dog at the Savannah River nuclear site over-reacted when it halted a delivery truck and caused security to put the facility in lockdown, and there does not appear to be a serious security threat, a U.S. government official said on Monday.

The dog barked at a truck that services vending machines at the site in South Carolina, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The facility, which was put in lockdown for a "potential security event" following the alarm, purifies highly enriched uranium, and is part of the Department of Energy's nuclear arm.

"The truck still has to be fully checked out," said the official, adding that it did not seem that there was a serious security breach.

A DoE spokeswoman at Savannah River said the plant was still in lockdown, meaning no one was allowed to enter, but employees were free to leave for the day.

"The event was declared after electronic and canine scans of a vendor delivery truck indicated a possibility of explosive residue on the truck," the Savannah River Site said in a statement on its Facebook page.

"Site barricades are currently closed to incoming traffic," an earlier post said, also issued by the DoE. "There is no indication of a consequence beyond the Savannah River Site boundaries."

Law enforcement agencies from South Carolina and Georgia were called and are on the scene, the site said.

The Savannah River Site placed its H Area on a "phase II" security alert, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The H Area is where highly enriched uranium is blended down to produce low enriched uranium for use in commercial reactors.

"All personnel should remain in their offices or labs and standby for further instructions via the Site public address system or instruction via email," the memo said.

The government-run site was constructed in the 1950s to produce basic materials for nuclear weapons, according to a DoE website, and produced one third of U.S. weapons grade plutonium from 1953 to 1988.

Two of the Savannah River Site's 5 reactors have been deactivated. It now blends down enriched uranium for use in commercial reactors. It also is used to store spent fuel. About 36 million gallons of radioactive liquid are stored there in 49 underground tanks.