Joke leads to bomb scare at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

WINTERSBURG, Ariz. – A man is facing felony charges after an early morning bomb scare at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Wintersburg, west of Phoenix.

It happened shortly before 1 a.m.

Sgt. Jesse Spurgin with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said a contracted employee was reporting for work when he was stopped at the first security checkpoint for a routine vehicle sweep. Spurgin said the man made a crack about possibly having a bomb in his vehicle.

The inspection was immediately stopped, the man was taken into custody and the Maricopa County sheriff’s bomb squad was called out to the scene. Crews went over the vehicle from bumper to bumper and did not find any explosives. The vehicle has been towed from the scene.

While the bomb squad was checking the vehicle, nobody was allowed into or out of the facility.

Spurgin said investigators are questioning the man about why he would say he might have a bomb in his vehicle. Investigators believe the comment was made in jest, but Palo Verde's security team took it very seriously.

That contractor, whose name has not been released, could be facing a Class 4 felony.

Some 200 employees who had been waiting in the parking lot of a nearby Shell station were finally allowed into the facility at about 6 a.m.

Palo Verde is the largest nuclear generation facility in the country. Capable of generating nearly 4,000 megawatts of electricity, it has been the largest power producer of any kind in the U.S. since 1992.

Palo Verde is located about 55 miles west of Phoenix.