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Nuclear Team's Response to Hotel Threat Told

January 22, 1987|Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — An Energy Department spokesman confirmed Wednesday that a secret elite nuclear search team was dispatched to a Reno hotel in 1981 to check out extortion threats against the resort.

A contingent of 42 members of the Nuclear Emergency Search Team was dispersed to Harrah's Hotel and Casino after threats were made to detonate explosives which would unleash plutonium through the hotel's air ducts.

A spokesman said the Las Vegas-based NEST members went to Reno on Jan. 9, 1981, and returned the next day when a search of the resort failed to turn up any explosives or plutonium.

NEST is made up of several hundred scientists, engineers and others involved in the nation's nuclear testing program. Team members are trained to respond to nuclear threats, primarily from terrorists or extortionists.

Word of the 1981 incident was contained in a 1984 report to the President prepared jointly by the departments of Defense and Energy. The report also says that a NEST contingency plan was developed at the request of the FBI for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The document is classified Secret but was released last week in a censored form under the Freedom of Information Act.

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