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Divebomb?

An anonymous pilot reported to Mothers for Peace that he and a friend feigned an air attack over Diablo Canyon in May that failed to attract the attention of plant staff. PG&E has no record of the event.

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‘Crazy as it may seem, on a dare we decided to test the air security of the plant, not knowing what to expect. From an altitude of 1,500 feet we began a high-speed aggressive dive at a 45-degree angle directly toward the power plant.'

Allegation of unidentified pilot ...

TARGET OF DECEPTION
An anonymous pilot reported to Mothers for Peace that he and a friend feigned an air attack over Diablo Canyon in May that failed to attract the attention of plant staff. PG&E has no record of the event.

An unidentified pilot says he dive-bombed the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in a personal plane, but so far no one can prove it. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) won't comment, PG&E says there's no record of it, and the man who claims he and a friend flew their plane aggressively over Diablo Canyon Power Plant, feigning an air attack, remains anonymous, so there's no way to substantiate his story.

According to Jane Swanson of Mothers for Peace, a local nonprofit watchdog group, the man recently contacted her organization with the allegations and she presented them at the most recent Nuclear Regulatory meeting at the Embassy Suites Hotel on Dec 14. After calling the group, Swanson agreed with the unidentified man that he should write down what allegedly happened and then deliver it to her. Swanson typed up the statement, changing only a few minor grammatical and spelling errors, she said.

Swanson does not know the man's identity and asked that he not tell her, as she was concerned about legal consequences.

Swanson said the man claimed to have dive-bombed the nuclear power plant sometime in May. In a report she submitted to the NRC Allegations Coordinator in Arlington, Texas, and local media, the man states, “I have lost many nights sleep over the past six months after discovering the truth about the lack of security at the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

“In the middle of May, 2005 I was flying with a friend, whom I will call Jim. Jim and I are both pilots and we both enjoy extreme sports.�

While the two were allegedly flying three miles off of the coast near Diablo, the unidentified man warned his friend about being too close to Diablo. While there is a one-nautical-mile exclusionary zone surrounding Diablo for boats, it's usual and legal for planes to pass overhead at the plant, said Jeff Lewis, spokesman for PG&E.

“Crazy as it may seem,� the unidentified man continued, “on a dare we decided to test the air security of the plant, not knowing what to expect. From an altitude of 1,500 feet we began a high-speed aggressive dive at a 45-degree angle directly toward the power plant. At an altitude of 500 feet we dive-bombed directly over the containment domes. We could have crashed our plane within seconds and within a few feet of any location at the plant.�

Lewis said there's standard procedure in place to notify authorities if aircraft are loitering in the area of Diablo. According to Lewis, planes pass regularly and are observed by sight from the plant. If an aircraft circles, or loiters, officials at the plant start notifying various authorities, starting with the sheriff's department and going all the way up to the FBI. Lewis said officials at the plant have done this six times in the last two years, once when a plane was circling 5,000 feet above the plant.

The unidentified pilot claims his dive-bombing got the attention of plant officials. “I could see people running around below us, I thought for sure that we were being shot at and that a chase plane or helicopter would come after us.�

After reviewing records at the plant, Lewis said there were “no records of such an event … that was described at the [NRC] meeting.� Lewis said if the unsubstantiated claim had been true, numerous workers and officials at the plant would have at the very least noticed and recorded the event, if not contacted authorities.

“You can't keep something like that secret and we wouldn't,� said Lewis.

The plant's reactor domes reach 200 feet into the air, said Lewis, so to consider that a plane flew 500 feet above the plant, without anyone noticing would be “extremely unlikely.�

The unidentified pilot then claims in his statement that he and his friend returned to an airport, left, and nothing happened. In an effort to raise awareness about what they see as a lack of security at Diablo, Mothers for Peace says the pilot's claims, while admittedly potentially false, are troubling.

“Regardless of the report's veracity, it raises very serious questions about the safety of those of us living in the communities surrounding Diablo Canyon and its radioactive waste facilities,� Swanson said in a press release.

But Lewis and PG&E officials are likely to disagree with that statement. The story, as they see it, is false and therefore can't testify to the plant's security standards.

Victor Dricks, NRC public affairs officer, said the NRC “does not comment on allegations.� He refused to confirm or deny if the commission would investigate the claims and he refused to acknowledge if it is even his organization's role to investigate the claims.

Swanson said the NRC was looking into the report she submitted on behalf of the unidentified pilot and she expects a response sometime in the future. ∆

Staff Writer John Peabody can be reached at jpeabody@newtimesslo.com.

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