A gunman is still at large following a shootout with a security officer on the perimeter of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant site near Spring City, TN, early Sunday.
The suspect fired multiple rounds at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) security officer who was on a routine patrol near the banks of Chickamauga Lake about 2 a.m. Sunday, TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said.
The officer first spotted the suspect near an old concrete boat ramp in a restricted area of the plant property about a quarter-mile from the site’s protected area, which houses the reactor and power production facilities.
When the officer confronted the person, “The individual fired on the officer, striking the officer’s vehicle,” said Hopson. “The officer returned fire, and as the officer was calling for backup, the individual fled the scene.”
Both parties fired multiple rounds, he added. The security officer was not hurt and, as of yet, authorities have found no evidence that the gunman was struck either, Hopson said.
Investigators have yet to verify how the person accessed the area or escaped, Hopson said.
It was the first shooting incident at the Watts Bar plant since it became operational in 1996, he added.
The FBI responded, along with personnel from the Rhea and Meigs County sheriff’s offices, who searched both sides of the lake for the suspect. The plant is on the Rhea County side of the lake, south of Watts Bar Dam.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) immediately declared “an unusual event,” the lowest of the NRC’s four emergency classifications.
TVA facilities already were on a heighten state of alert, following last week’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, Hopson said.
The plant stood down from the “unusual event” classification at 12:30 p.m., once authorities sufficiently searched the property to ensure there were no threats to the site or to public safety, he said.