Bomb Placed on Power Station Fuel Tank, Story Explodes

Incident exposes vulnerability of critically important substation

Entrance to the Unisource Energy Power Station in Nogales, Arizona

Entrance to the Unisource Energy Power Station in Nogales, Arizona

June 11, Nogaz – Police and firefighters were called to the Unisource Energy Nogales power station on the morning of Wednesday, June 11 after a homemade device was found to have been activated next to one of the site’s 500,000-gallon diesel fuel tanks.

The Nogales officials evacuated the area and called the FBI bomb squad and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents to the scene. Investigators determined that an incendiary device (one that generates heat) small enough to be held in one’s hand, had been activated and placed on or near the station’s fuel tank.

One of the 500,000-gallon fuel tanks on site at the Unisource Energy site in Nogales

One of the 500,000-gallon fuel tanks on site at the Unisource Energy site in Nogales

The device failed to breach the tank and rather than creating a huge fireball and bomb it instead fell harmlessly to the ground, where it charred the pavement.

However, that is not how the story played in the press. Shortly after news of the event broke, online news sources from Tucson to Phoenix and beyond had neglected to confirm the details of the case and instead sensationalized the issue, portraying the incident as an explosion at the power plant.

And as this lackadaisical reporting fed on itself it led to the explosion being reported on local Tucson news and even national news broadcasts as being an explosion. Another clear example of how the news media look for bad news about Nogales and when reported, assume it to be true.

But fortunately there was not an explosion, perhaps because the person who entered the facility and activated the device did not know what he or she was doing, or perhaps even more ominously, the event was a dry run for a future repeat attempt.

There has been no public announcement or speculation as to what may have led to the placement of the device on the fuel tank. Whatever the reason, this incident exposed a key weakness in the security of the power station, which provides electricity to more than 8,000 customers in the area and does not have a backup source of energy. Taking the station off line for any reason would be devastating to Nogales, Arizona. Devastating.

This must be a wake-up call to Unisource Energy to beef up security to the station. Protecting the station with an easily breached chain link fence with easy access from an adjacent car lot that provides excellent concealment for would-be terrorists and others is not acceptable.

Build a wall around the facility, Unisource. Add more security to the station. And do it now.

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