(Addition of Statement of GE, paragraph 5)
By Timothy Gardner
WASHINGTON, July 11 (Reuters) – Two people broke a security fence in a GE Hitachi research reactor near San Francisco, the US-based nuclear power authority said on Thursday. Concern over a nuclear enriched uranium plant, a material that could be used to make an atomic bomb.
The intruders breached a safety barrier at the Vallecitos reactor in Alameda County on Wednesday afternoon at a 1,600-acre (647.5-hectare) site about 64 km east of San Francisco. , announced on its website the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission a security threat notice.
They escaped the security of the plant after being spotted, but soon after, suspects were arrested outside the facility, NRC said.
The Alameda County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The NRC notice did not mention that the plant was one of the few in the country to use highly enriched uranium, or HEU. Non-proliferation groups have pushed these plants into low-enriched uranium, or LEU, a material that can not be used to make a bomb.
GE Hitachi Nuclear is a company between General Electric Co and Hitachi Ltd. GE said in a statement that the individuals "had not crossed the fence of the inner perimeter, nor accessed buildings or operational areas and had been immediately approached by security". GE has not answered a question about the amount of HEU in the plant.
The NRC limits the amount of unirradiated HEU in the research and test reactors to less than what would be required to build a nuclear bomb device. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the amount of highly enriched uranium in the plant.
The safety significance of the Vallecitos event was unclear, but "it highlights the continuing danger posed by nuclear reactors fueled by materials that can be used with nuclear bombs, such as highly enriched, "said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist and nuclear safety expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists Defense Group.
"These reactors should be converted into safer or closed fuels," he said.
In a letter to NRC in April, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, Jeffrey Smyly, chief regulatory compliance officer at GE, said the US Department of Energy did not have funds to convert the fuel from the company. UFE reactor. (Report by Timothy Gardner edited by Susan Thomas and Lisa Shumaker)
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