Nuclear plant sealed off after traces of explosives found on bag

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant.
Image: Daniel Kihlgren.

At least two men in Sweden were arrested after security officials at the Oskarshamn Nuclear Power Plant discovered traces of an explosive material on a plastic bag. Oskarshamnsverkets Kraftgrupp OKG operates the plant, which is one of three nuclear power plants in Sweden.

Reports say that on the outside of a bag was Acetone peroxide, or TATP, primarily used as a high yield explosive, but is also an organic peroxide used in making chemicals for cleaning.

The unidentified men in their 40's to 50's, who were contractors and welders hired for doing work at the plant, were stopped as they entered the plant. Authorities were called to the scene along with the bomb squad, who sealed off parts of the plant when they detected the explosive material on a bag's handle. Security detected the material in what is described by CNN as a "routine" security check. Police believe it was on one of the man's hands when it rubbed off onto the bag, but no bomb was found after an extensive search. Both men have been charged with attempted sabotage and are still undergoing interrogation. Both face sentences of up to two years in prison.

Plant officials state that the plant has never received a threat "not in the past, not now, and we have no threat for the future," said President of OKG, Lars Thuring. "The only thing that we have found is this trace of explosives in the bag."

TATP is "very unstable, very sensitive to both friction and shocks," said Swedish Defense Research Agency expert, Svante Karlsson. A small amount could cause serious damage to someone handling the material which is described as 'Mother of Satan'. Would-be 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid used the substance in an attempt to blow up American Airlines flight 63 from Paris, France to Miami, Florida in 2001. The same substance was also used in the July 2005 bombings in London, England.

The plant's reactors, where the men were scheduled to work, were turned off on May 11 for routine maintenance. The rest of the plant's operations were not interrupted.

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