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Former Nuclear Plant Worker Arrested - 2002-01-09

Police in California have arrested a former nuclear plant worker for allegedly making terrorist threats against former coworkers. Police found hundreds of weapons at the man's home and a nearby location.

Police say the 43-year-old man was fired last month from his job at the San Onofre nuclear generating station, 100 kilometers south of Los Angeles. Authorities say a search of his home and a nearby storage facility turned up a rocket launcher, several hand grenades, thousands of rounds of ammunition and more than 250 rifles and handguns.

The operator of the plant, Southern California Edison Company, said security at the facility is tight. But according to Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, the man posed a serious threat to his former coworkers. "As in any terrorist threat," he said, "you have to ask yourself is he capable of carrying out that threat? He definitely had the means: over 250 weapons, 4,000 or 5,000 rounds of ammunition, hand grenades, tear gas. I would say he definitely had the means to carry out his threat."

Two police officers investigating the weapons cache were treated for exposure to fumes from an unknown chemical, described as a yellow powder which gave off vapors similar to tear gas.

A spokesman for the power plant say the man worked there as a maintenance mechanic since 1984 and did not have access to the nuclear reactor.

Police say he appeared to be seeking revenge for losing his job and was not involved in a wider terrorist plot.

The suspect is being held without bail. He faces possible charges of making a terrorist threat, possession of illegal firearms and possession of a controlled substance.