Friday, June 13, 2008

Red faces in the security department, I'd say!


On May 21st it was announced in Sweden that two contractors had been arrested for trying to smuggle explosives onto the site of a nuclear power station.

"Two Swedish men were arrested ... The prosecutor suspects them of sabotage," Sven-Erik Karlsson of the Kalmar county police told AFP.

He said both men were contractors who had been working at the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southern Sweden "for some time," but said the link between the two remained unclear.

One of the men was arrested and questioned early Wednesday after routine tests at the entrance to the plant detected traces of highly explosive material on the handle of a plastic bag he was carrying.

Karlsson told the TT news agency that the men were born in 1955 and 1962 and that one of them had a criminal record, but did not disclose their identities.

A spokesman for the OKG company that runs the plant, Anders Österberg, told AFP the two were welders who had been contracted for work on one of the plant's three reactors, which had been shut down for maintenance.

He said one of them had been working inside the plant for two weeks, and that sniffer dogs would be sent in to search the area they had worked in.

"One must of course take into account the information we have about where these people have been working ... and in cooperation with the police and bomb sniffing dogs search these areas to make sure these people have not left behind any explosives," Österberg said.

"It is a security measure," he said, adding that around 100 people had been evacuated from the area where the explosive traces were detected.

The plant's two other reactors were running as normal on Wednesday, he said.

The explosive material was believed to be TATP, which is relatively easy to make and has surfaced in a number of recent terrorism investigations, including bombings in the Middle East and the London bombings in July 2005.





Sounds like good police work, right?

Think again.

On Monday it was reported:

Two Swedes suspected of plotting an attack on a Swedish nuclear plant were cleared Monday after authorities were unable to explain why small traces of explosives were detected on a shaving cream can one of them was carrying, news agency TT reports.

Prosecutor Gunilla Oehlin said small traces of TNT were detected on the shaving cream can, but there was no explanation for how it got there and there was no reason to suspect the two men of any crime, TT said.

The two men, born in 1955 and 1964, had been working as welders for several weeks on one of three reactors at the Oskarshamn plant in southern Sweden.

They were arrested on May 21 after a routine security control at the entrance to the plant detected traces of highly explosive material on a plastic bag containing toiletry items that one of the men was carrying.

The two men were released from custody after one day, after raids in their homes turned up nothing.

"It was necessary to carry out the investigation this way and arrest the men so they could be questioned," police spokesman Sven-Erik Karlsson said, TT reported.

At the time of the incident, police said the highly explosive material detected was TATP, which is relatively easy to make and has surfaced in a number of recent terrorism investigations, including bombings in the Middle East and the London bombings in July 2005.

Police said on Monday however that the plant's equipment had detected TNT and not TATP, but had no further explanation for why it had been detected.

A bomb squad called in to the plant on the day of the incident had blown up the plastic bag and the shaving cream can.

Forensic tests later carried out on the blown up material showed traces of the bomb squad's explosives, but no traces of TNT.

Police were unable to explain where the TNT could have come from.

The false alarm cost OKG, the company that runs the plant, some 100 million kronor ($16.8 million), according to tabloid Expressen.


Hmm. Almost $17 million for a false alarm!

If I were the security department, I'd be having urgent discussions with the suppliers of my bomb-materials-detecting equipment, asking them why their boxes of tricks couldn't distinguish between explosives and shaving cream . . . and would they care to foot the bill for the resultant snafu?

Peter

3 comments:

Erik said...

If I were the security department, I would also look into the routines that made it possible for one of the men to pass the security check and be allowed to work at a nuclear plant, even though he had a criminal record with several convictions.

Peter said...

Erik, this is Sweden. Once you've done your time, it's discriminatory to keep you out of certain jobs.

*Sigh*

Rogue Medic said...

How do you spend that much money on a false alarm?

Do you close the entire plant because at a checkpoint you detected "something?"

Is there a test for anything that does not give some false alarms?

The TSA would have to work really hard to come up with that much of a cost for a false alarm. If you add up all of the costs of the TSA, it dwarfs this, but that is a different story.