Report: Police foil terrorist plot in Sydney
SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- Australian authorities played down an Olympic terrorist threat after reports emerged that New Zealand police foiled a plot targeting a nuclear reactor in Sydney.
The New Zealand Herald reported Saturday that police raids in Auckland, New Zealand, in March on suspected people-smuggling operations allegedly run by organized crime gangs uncovered evidence of a plot against a nuclear reactor in Sydney during the Olympics.
But Australian officials said there was no serious risk to the small research reactor, and they had no plans to shut it down.
New South Wales police, who have overall control of games security, confirmed that they were following New Zealand's investigations into the raid.
"The New South Wales police service is aware of an investigation conducted by New Zealand police into the activities of an organized group in New Zealand," said a police spokesman who declined to be named.
The threat is being treated seriously, the Sydney-based spokesman said.
Detective Superintendent Bill Bishop, of New Zealand police national headquarters, told Radio New Zealand that three men had been arrested during the raids in March and that investigations were continuing.
He said the group was in possession of Sydney maps and plans of detailed access and exit routes to the targeted nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights.
Police raided an Auckland home that had been converted into a virtual command center and located the maps plus notes on police security tactics, the Herald reported.
The newspaper said that the group was reportedly linked with Afghanistan-based terrorist Osama bin Laden, but there was no independent confirmation of the claim.
Milton Cockburn, a spokesman for the Sydney 2000 organizing committee, said security during the Sept. 15-Oct. 1 Olympics was the responsibility of the New South Wales police. He declined to make any further comment.
There was no immediate reaction from U.S. officials.
A nuclear reactor in Atlanta was closed down during the 1996 Olympics over concerns of possible terrorism.
A test reactor in Atlanta was closed down during the 1996 Olympics over concerns of possible terrorism.
Georgia Tech shut down the reactor on its campus before the Olympics and moved all of its nuclear fuel. A year after the Games, the university decided not to restart the reactor.
Federal Science Minister Nick Minchin's office said the Australian reactor, located in the suburb of Lucas Heights, would not be closed during the games.
"Relevant Australian authorities have made an assessment and have advised that the risk is low," a Minchin spokeswoman said Saturday.
A spokeswoman for Australia's Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, said official inquiries had revealed that "there was no credible threat to Lucas Heights" at this stage.
The 1950s-vintage nuclear reactor is not a power plant. It is used for scientific and medical research and operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization. It is also much smaller than an electricity-generating nuclear reactor. It produces about 10 megawatts of thermal energy compared with 3,000 megawatts by a typical electricity-generating reactor.