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Orange County

County's Alert Status Is Orange-Plus

Terrorism: Officials here add an extra degree of caution. San Onofre can withstand airplane attack, facility spokesman says.

September 11, 2002|JANET WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

From Disneyland to the San Onofre nuclear power plant, Orange County authorities--already on heightened alert for today's anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks--said Tuesday they were adding an extra degree of vigilance as the nation was put on increased threat watch.

Officials for the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station took pains to say the plant four miles south of San Clemente was strong enough to withstand the type of airplane attack that brought down the World Trade Center.

"We've done some engineering analysis since Sept. 11, where we looked at weights of commercial airlines, speeds, fuel capacity, resulting fires and impacts," said Ray Golden, a spokesman for the Southern California Edison facility. "We are highly confident that if a similar scenario was attempted by terrorists on our facilities it would not result in releases of radiation."

Golden was responding to videotaped remarks by Al Qaeda terrorists released this week that claimed the initial targets considered for last year's attacks were nuclear facilities.

Word that the national alert status was upgraded from yellow to orange reached local agencies in a variety of ways. The Orange County Sheriff's Department learned of it from an FBI Teletype bulletin, while San Onofre officials heard from the governor's emergency preparedness office.

"We sent out a notice to all of our employees letting them know of the general change in the level of threat, so we could have an even more vigilant extra 2,000 pairs of eyes and ears on our property," Golden said. The U.S. Coast Guard is enforcing no-fly and no-boating zones around the nuclear power facility, which sits at the ocean near the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton.

Other agencies were on guard as well.

"We are on higher alert in terms of the cognizance that something might happen at a prominent facility, such as John Wayne Airport, county buildings, San Onofre or elsewhere," said Lt. Lloyd Downey, watch commander at the county Emergency Operations Center, a central disaster response site tucked into Loma Ridge at the mountainous eastern edge of the county. "Even El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, although it is closed; we have county personnel out there."

If a bomb scare or other threat is received, sheriff's deputies will swarm the site with extra personnel, Downey added.

Anaheim police and personnel also were on heightened alert, monitoring everything from the Angels' baseball games to Disneyland and the convention center, city spokesman John Nicoletti said.

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