Threat against Three Mile Island nuclear plant discredited; Penn. airports reopen

Thursday, October 18th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ A threat against the Three Mile Island nuclear plant prompted two nearby airports to close for four hours, until the threat was discredited, a federal official said Thursday.

The plant remained on high alert, though the reactor was shut down earlier this month for maintenance. Military aircraft patrolled area skies and the FBI and state police watched over the plant, site of the nation's worst commercial nuclear accident.

``It was a real threat, and we handle it the same way as if (the reactor) was up and running,'' said Maria Smith, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

Authorities said the threat came Wednesday night but released no other details.

Harrisburg International Airport and Lancaster Airport reopened at 1 a.m. Thursday.

Officials had no timetable to lift the additional security at Three Mile Island. Security had already been increased since Sept. 11 and was heightened again after Wednesday's threat.

Three Mile Island was the only nuclear power plant threatened, plant spokesman Ralph DeSantis said.

The airport shutdown had been part of a temporary flight restriction that extended for a 20-mile radius around the Harrisburg airport, FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said.

Three Mile Island is located just outside Harrisburg.

In 1979, the plant was the site of America's worst commercial nuclear accident when about a third of the nuclear fuel melted inside a reactor and radiation leaked into the atmosphere.