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Armed guardsmen urged at N-plants

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

By The Associated Press

HARRISBURG -- The state House unanimously passed a resolution yesterday urging Gov. Mark S. Schweiker to order National Guard troops patrolling the state's five nuclear power plants to carry loaded weapons.

The resolution is sponsored by Minority Whip Mike Veon, whose Beaver County district includes a nuclear plant in Shippingport. Veon said he has received several calls over the past eight months from Guard members and their families, who say the troops have been carrying unloaded guns.

He said he proposed the resolution out of frustration with his inability to get answers from the administration or National Guard officials to confirm whether this is true.

"I don't believe this administration can continue to tell Pennsylvanians we are among the most prepared states in the nation in respect to homeland security when our soldiers aren't even permitted to carry loaded weapons," Veon said.

Officials have declined to say how many Guard members are deployed to nuclear power plants. The troops are supporting armed units of state police and private security officers patrolling the plants.

Steve Aaron, a spokesman for Schweiker, said it is the administration's policy not to comment on the National Guard's arming orders for security reasons, and that Veon should refrain from doing so as well.

Specific arming orders are decided "on a daily basis" by the National Guard generals, based on their assessments of security threats, Aaron said.

Schweiker issued his original order in November on the heels of criticism from legislators, who cited threats at two nuclear plants that turned out to be false alarms.

The troops and state police who have been deployed are to stay through Dec. 31.

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