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Fission Stories #97: His Left Foot

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On May 17, 1998, a security guard at the Zion nuclear plant outside Chicago, Illinois was rushed to the hospital with a bullet wound to his left foot. The guard said he had been injured while repelling an intrusion by unauthorized individuals. The two reactors at Zion, permanently closed by their owner in January 1998, still had irradiated fuel assemblies onsite that represented a radiological threat to the health of plant workers and the public.

The following day, the injured security guard recanted his story, or at least parts of it. His left foot was indeed injured, but not by terrorists or saboteurs. The wound was self-inflicted. The official report indicated that the security guard (or former security guard) emptied his gun of all six bullets. The report did not specify if he hit his foot with the first shot or if he missed his foot with the first five shots because it kept moving.

Our Takeaway

Some children had imaginary friends while growing up. This security guard apparently had imaginary enemies.

The morale of this story – don’t shoot at imaginary enemies, or friends, with real guns.

“Fission Stories” is a weekly feature by Dave Lochbaum. For more information on nuclear power safety, see the nuclear safety section of UCS’s website and our interactive map, the Nuclear Power Information Tracker.

Posted in: fission stories, Nuclear Power Safety Tags: ,

About the author: Mr. Lochbaum received a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1979 and worked as a nuclear engineer in nuclear power plants for 17 years. In 1992, he and a colleague identified a safety problem in a plant where they were working. When their concerns were ignored by the plant manager, the utility, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they took the issue to Congress. The problem was eventually corrected at the original plant and at plants across the country. Lochbaum joined UCS in 1996 to work on nuclear power safety. He spent a year in 2009-10 working at the NRC Training Center in Tennessee. Areas of expertise: Nuclear power safety, nuclear technology and plant design, regulatory oversight, plant license renewal and decommissioning

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