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Drone reports at SC nuclear weapons site


Reports of drones over the Savannah River Site nuclear weapons complex are drawing scrutiny from the federal government.

Agents with the FBI interviewed a prominent nuclear watchdog this week about drones at the site. Meanwhile, the SRS “protective force” has confirmed several sightings of drones in June over the complex near Aiken, the U.S. Department of Energy said Thursday afternoon.

“SRS takes these reports very seriously and is coordinating with appropriate federal, state, and local authorities,’’ an Energy Department statement said.

Agency spokesman Monte Volk said he did not know who was flying the drones over SRS or why they were being brought into the site’s air space. He declined further comment.

Drones, remotely controlled flying machines, are used increasingly across the country for business and recreational purposes. But they also are a security concern in the face of the war on terrorism. The Savannah River Site, a 310-square-mile complex, is filled with nuclear materials and nuclear waste. The site is heavily guarded.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an advisory warning pilots to avoid airspace above nuclear power plants, military sites and similar areas. The FAA also recently introduced a series of rules for drones addressing how high they can fly. The rules say drones should be flown no more than 400 feet above ground or within 400 feet of a building.

Mark Keel, chief of the State Law Enforcement Division, said his agency is aware of the drone sightings at SRS and “they have got our attention.’’ Keel said he could not comment on the specific situation, but generally speaking, drones are a security concern.

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