UFOs over atomic plants – Part 3

We publish the third and last installment of the original series that appeared in The News World’s “UFO Supplement” in March 1982, under the pseudonym of A. Hovni. Based on then recently declassified documents from the USAF, FBI, AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) and other agencies released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), this article continues with the UFO mini-flap over the restricted zone of the Oak Ridge atomic facilities in Tennessee in 1950; as well as CIA documents about sightings over uranium mines in the Belgian Congo (currently the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in central Africa; and more flying saucer activity monitored by the FBI, this time over the Savannah River Plant managed by the AEC in South Carolina.

We transcribed the article identically as it appeared in The News World on March 6, 1982, correcting only typos and adding illustrations and some of the official documents discussed in the story.

Original cover of the UFO Supplement of The News World, where this article was published in 1982. The CIA document is on the sample official documents section. (Credit: Huneeus Collection)

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The News World, New York City, March 6, 1982

UFO blitz over atomic sites sparked U.S. alert

Intelligence agencies began secret research

By A. Hovni
Special to The News World

Last in a three-part series

We covered in our previous article the beginnings of the October 1950 UFO flap over the sensitive atomic installations at Oak Ridge, Tenn., which would cause considerable alarm in various U.S. government agencies. On Oct. 12 and 13 of that year, unidentified objects were observed visually by Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) security personnel while unidentified echoes were detected by the Air Force Radar Station at McGhee-Tyson Airport in Knoxville, Tenn. F-82 fighter jets were scrambled on both occasions.

The authorities were still sorting out the evidence of these initial incidents when, at 3:20 p.m. on Oct. 16, AEC troopers John Isabell, Lendelle Clark and Hank Briggs, and two other witnesses observed “objects hovering over the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge, Tenn.” (See AEC Patrol Incident Report by trooper John Isabell for a complete description of the sighting in the words of the principal witness).

AEC Patrol Incident Report with the testimony of Trooper John L. Isabell on October 16, 1950.

A shorter description is given by AEC troopers Lendelle Clark and Hank Briggs, who were stopped by Isabell at the Blair Gate to show them “an object in the north that was traveling toward the northwest.” Their description stated that the UFO “looked to be at about 2,000 feet in the air and a white-silverish looking color, rotating in a counterclockwise manner. It was round in shape and going up in a rather fast motion.” The witnesses also noticed that the round object “looked the size of a ball” and “seemed to come in sight and then disappear.”

Aerial view of the “Y-12” Area at Oak Ridge. This nuclear installation in Tennessee was the site of many UFO incidents in the late 40s and early 50s. (Credit:

Trooper Isabell phoned headquarters immediately, and he reported that “fifteen minutes after the object disappeared into the northeast, an F-82 Fighter plane showed up in the area where the object was last seen, but appeared to be thousands of feet lower than the object which troopers Clark, Briggs and the undersigned saw and reported.” This third Air Force “scramble” with F-82s with one or two days difference between them is confirmed by another document, an Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) evaluation of the UFO sightings over Oak Ridge. The document states that “a fighter aircraft from the 5th Fighter Sqd. was sent to identify an object which was reported to be hovering over K-25,” but that “the radar equipment aboard the aircraft got an image on its scope” that the pilot finally “identified as a light-type aircraft.” Yet the Army evaluation also indicates that “ground observers state that the fighter plane passed beneath the object which they were observing.” The report finally states that “the Security Division, Atomic Energy Commission, will attempt to have the observers, make the same statements while undergoing a polygraph test.”

The final evaluation

AEC guards at the Elza Gate in Oak Ridge in the 1940s. It was guards like these who reported a series of UFO sightings in 1950 which were thoroughly investigated by the AEC, AFOSI, Army CIC, and FBI. (Credit: Ed Westcott/Wikimedia Commons)

Undoubtedly, one of the most interesting documents regarding the UFO flap over Oak Ridge is a “Summary of Information” prepared by the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). Dated Oct. 21, 1950, it was distributed to the commanding general and the G-2 Section of the Third Army, the AEC Security Division, the FBI and AFOSI. Right from the beginning, the document indicates that “the most reliable sources available were utilized” and that the witnesses’ employment and FBI records “were inspected to ascertain their reliability, integrity and loyalty to the United States government.”

The document indicates next that a number of government agencies were consulted, including the AEC Security Division and Security Patrol at Oak Ridge, the Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft (NEPA) Division, the FBI, AFOSI and the AF Radar Station and Fighter Squadrons in the Knoxville area. Yet CIC concluded that the opinions of all these officials “fail to evolve an adequate explanation for SUBJECT” (Capital letters in the original). Although they mention all the Air Force’s favorite debunking gimmicks popular in those days, such as mass hysteria, birds, balloons, insect swarms, flying kites, insanity, etc., the document states in no uncertain terms that all these explanations “have been rejected because of the simultaneous witnessing of the objects with the reported radar sightings; because of the detailed, similar descriptions of the objects seen by different persons; and because of impossibility.”

Less than two months after this authoritative report was written, in early December of that same year, 1950, UFOs were back on the radar screens near Oak Ridge. One FBI teletype informed that Army Intelligence “have been put on immediate high alert for any data whatsoever concerning flying saucers,” and that the Army’s CIC “advises data strictly confidential and should not be disseminated.” Another FBI teletype from director J. Edgar Hoover instructs that, “arrangements should be made to obtain all facts concerning possible radar jamming by ionization of particles in atomic atmosphere.”

From the Belgian Congo…

The Shinkolobwé uranium mine in the Belgian Congo in the late 50s. This mine provided uranium ore for the Manhattan Project. (Credit:

To the extent that flying saucers exploded into the great flap of 1952, so did the concern of the CIA and other government agencies to process and store UFO reports from all over the world. From the CIA’s worldwide reporting network of UFO sightings established in 1952, comes an interesting report obtained from Die Presse in Vienna, concerning “two fiery disks sighted over the uranium mines in the southern part of the Belgian Congo [now Zaire] in the Elizabethville district.” According to the press report, “the disks glided in elegant curves and changed their position many times.” Duration of the sighting was between 10 and 12 minutes, and the objects “appeared as plates, ovals and simply lines.”

Despite its remoteness, this sighting had at least one competent witness in the person of Commander Pierre of the small Elizabethville airfield, who “immediately set out in pursuit with a fighter plane.” Cmdr. Pierre chased the two saucers for about 15 minutes, and at one point he reached a distance of only 120 meters from one of the discs. He described it as a “discus-shaped” object, 12 to 15 meters in diameter, consisting of an “absolutely still inner core” connected through a knob with “several small openings” to an “outer rim (which) was completely veiled in fire and must have had an enormous speed of rotation. The color of the metal was similar to that of aluminum.” According to Cmdr. Pierre’s estimate, the saucers were flying at about 1,500 kilometers per hour “in a precise and light manner, both vertically and horizontally,” until they disappeared from his view “in a straight line toward Lake Tanganyka.” Another CIA document regarding aerial phenomena in the Congo indicated that by 1955, “the UFOs are coming more and more over this country.”

…to the Savannah River plant

A May 12, 1952 urgent teletype from the FBI office in Savannah to director J. Edgar Hoover in Washington indicated that on May 10, at approximately 10:45 p.m., “four employees of Dupont Co., employed on Savannah River Plant near Ellenton, S.C., saw four disc-shaped objects approaching the four-hundred area from the south, disappearing in a northerly direction.” For the next half hour or so, four more objects buzzed the area, flying both in pairs and singles.

Heavy Water Component Test Reactor, Savannah River Site, Aiken, South Carolina. (Credit: US Department of Energy)

This incident in another restricted area, the Savannah River Plant managed by the AEC, apparently disturbed Hoover somewhat, since he sent a memo to the Air Force’s director of special investigations at the Pentagon on May 15, 1952, five days after the sightings. Copies were also sent to the Army’s G-2 assistant chief-of-staff, the director of naval intelligence and the director of security, AEC. Based on data furnished by the bureau’s Savannah office, Hoover writes that, “the disks were described by the above-mentioned employees as being approximately fifteen inches in diameter and tallow to gold in color. All of the objects were allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed and at a high altitude, without any noise.”

UFO sightings over atomic reactors and other sensitive military and industrial installations have not diminished in more recent years, either. During the 1973 UFO wave, for example, UFOs were seen again in the vicinity of the nuclear installations in Oak Ridge, Tenn. In December of that year, Howard Whetsel and R. Clough filmed on a 300-foot, 16 mm color film over 30 sightings of UFOs flying over Oak Ridge. I have never seen the film, but both NICAP and Ground Saucer Watch have declared it “bona fide.”

Another series of sightings took place during the same flap in South County, Rhode Island. According to ufologist Ronald Todd from APRO, of 66 sightings in the area, 47 were reported around Wood River Junction, where the United Nuclear Uranium Recovery Plant is located. In one particular incident, two UFOs hovered alternately over the plant for almost three hours. In another incident, witnessed by Todd himself, a UFO was chased by six helicopters and a radar plane. “A lot seemed to center around the nuclear plant,” concluded Todd. And there is still the well known UFO “invasion” of several Strategic Air Command nuclear bases over a two-week period in late 1975.

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Update since original publication

Of course there are many more UFO cases near nuclear power plants that took place since this series of articles was published originally in 1982. On June 14 and then again on July 24, 1984, barely two years after publication of these articles, one of the best known UFO incidents over atomic facilities occurred when “a huge elongated solid structure” was seen by security guards at Reactor No. 3 of the Indian Point Atomic Power Plants in Buchanan, just north of New York City. The details are described in the chapter “Close Encounters at Indian Point” in Night Siege – The Hudson Valley UFO Sightings, which was Dr. Hynek’s last book, co-authored with Philip Imbrogno and Bob Pratt. Although the security guards were interviewed for this book, no official documents have ever emerged regarding this case. The late Col. Colman von Keviczky, director of ICUFON in New York, contacted the NY Power Authority, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, which replaced the AEC), the Department of Energy, and other agencies in an attempt to obtain files under the FOIA, but was basically given a polite run-around but no papers about the Indian Point UFO incidents.

The next important case occurred on the evening of March 4, 1988 on Lake Erie, near the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio, 40 miles northeast of Cleveland. This case was investigated by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), which described it in a document as “a large object hovering over the lake,” which “apparently dispersed 3-5 smaller flying objects that were zipping around rather quickly” and “had the ability to stop and hover in mid flight.” This interesting case is described in some detail in a famous article by UFO historian Richard Dolan, “Twelve Government Documents That Take UFOs Seriously,” posted by Open Minds. We’ve also included the USCG report in the list of sample official documents below.

The appearance of UFOs over nuclear power plants is certainly not restricted to the U.S. In their book UFO Case Files of Russia, authors Paul Stonehill and Philip Mantle included two chapters titled “UFOs over Soviet Nuclear Installations” and “UFOs over Chernobyl.” The UFO allegations surrounding the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl in Ukraine in April 1986 are particularly intriguing. The chapter provides the testimony of two power plant technicians, who “observed a fiery sphere in the sky…Two bright raspberry-coloured rays shot out from the UFO and were directed at the reactor of Unit 4.” According to Mantle and Stonehill, readings taken by the technicians right before and after the appearance of the UFO showed a dramatic decrease of the radiation level. Other sightings and even a couple of photos were taken in 1990 and 1991.

Cooling towers of the Bohunice Nuclear Power Plant in Slovakia, site of a UFO flap in the early 90s. (Credit: MarkBA/Wikimedia Commons)

Another UFO flap over an atomic power plant occurred in Slovakia in 1992, specifically at the Bohunice Nuclear Power Plant in the village of Javlovské Bohunice in western Slovakia’s Trnava District. According to a report published in Hungary’s Ufomagazin in 1994, on the early hours of August 21, 1992, a security guard reported to his supervisor “the appearance of a flying object around the entrance gate of the plant. It was about 300 meters in diameter, triangular in form and hovering at an altitude of 500 meters.” The eyewitness could not identify the object with any familiar aircraft and no noise was heard. Other guards also saw the object over the gate and reported that something had landed outside the plant. Burnt marks were found on the field on the following morning. This was followed by other incidents, which led about 25 workers at the Bohunice plant to create their own UFO Club to document the flap!

Finally, an Argentinean UFO hunter called Cristián Soldano reported and filmed unexplained lights which he called “UFO flashes” near the Atucha nuclear power reactor in Buenos Aires province in June 2010. His story and footage was published and broadcast by Argentina’s media, including Soldano’s claims that “these objects were reacting to our signals” (he uses a protocol similar to Dr. Greer’s C-SETI) and were seen on the road leading to the Atucha plant. There were also some reports and YouTube videos of alleged UFO activity during the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan, following the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. Although there are several YouTube videos showing possible UFOs, I have not seen more solid reports documenting these cases. But even if we don’t count Fukushima, the evidence outlined in this series clearly establishes a link between UFO activity and nuclear power plants. Their intentions and its implications remain elusive, but the evidence should not be ignored and ought to be researched more in depth.

Army Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) Summary of Information, “Subject: Objects Sighted over Oak Ridge,” dated October 17, 1950.

CIA reports including a translation of a Vienna newspaper article, “Flying Saucers over Belgian Congo Uranium Mines,” from 1952; and a “Report of Unidentified Flying Objects” in the Belgian Congo from 1956.

FBI “urgent” teletype about UFO sightings at the AEC Savannah River Plant, May 12, 1952; and a memo by Director J. Edgar Hoover to the Air Force Director of Special Investigations on the same subject, May 15, 1952.

US Coast Guard “Incident Report: Unidentified Flying Objects,” mentioning an incident “1/4 mile east of CEI Power Plant” from March 1988.

Antonio Huneeus

Open Minds Investigative Reporter J. Antonio Huneeus has covered the UFO field from an international perspective for over 30 years. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Japan. He was also the co-author of the Laurance Rockefeller-funded “UFO Briefing Document – The Best Available Evidence” and edited the book “A Study Guide to UFOs, Psychic & Paranormal Phenomena in the USSR.” Huneeus studied French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Journalism at the University of Chile in Santiago in the 1970s. He has lectured at dozens of UFO Conferences all over the world and been interviewed by many media outlets including The Washington Post, the Sy-Fy and History Channels, Nippon-TV, etc. He received the “Ufologist of the Year” award at the National UFO Conference in Miami Beach in 1990 and the “Courage in Journalism” award at the X-Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2007.

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  1. Am giving an educational series to seniors in affiliation with Widener University’s EXTON Pa. campus and the subject matter of my lectures is EXTRATERRESTRIAL INTELLIGENCE. The major sighting at Buchanan Point nuclear power plant is of great significance in my presentation. ANY further info on this incredible sighting would be appreciated.

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