Workers at a U.S. Department of Energy nuclear site in South Carolina have reported that unmanned aerial vehicles flew over the facility eight times in recent weeks. Officials say no drone has been recovered.
From June 19 to July 5, an 18-day period, a drone flew over the Savannah River Site (SRS) on at least eight occasions, according to employees at the federal facility, as well as Department of Energy officials, the Aiken Standard and local ABC-affiliate WJBF reported.
Each time one of the remotely operated aircraft is spotted, a call goes out over the facility’s PA system, and SRS employees receive an email with information regarding the sighting, SRS officials told the Standard.
“Over the last two weeks,” the most recent internal email read, “there have been several reports of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) flying over various areas on SRS to include the K Area Complex, H Area, E Area and the [mixed oxide fuel] MOX Facility. Although airspace over the SRS is not currently restricted, these flights do pose a safety and security concern.”
SRS personnel have been asked to watch for drones and report them, along with photographic or video evidence of the sightings. The facility, managed and operated by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC, is cooperating with local, state, and federal authorities.
The Federal Aviation Administration has a well-established Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that “strongly advises” pilots to steer clear of nuclear facilities, and new FAA rules for drone pilots will be enforced this August.
Despite helicopters taking off from the facility to attempt to catch or identify one of the drones, none have been recovered. There are no leads. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the state’s equivalent, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, are investigating the matter.
Clements not only told the paper he had no information about the drone sightings, but that the FBI agents “were not well informed about my organization or the situation.’’