From The Gathering Storm Blog

Federal authorities are accusing a former engineer at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station of illegally taking software codes to Iran and downloading details of control rooms, reactors and designs of the nation’s largest nuclear plant.

Officers arrested Mohammad “Mo” Alavi, 49, in Los Angeles this month and charged him with one count of violating a trade embargo, which prohibits Americans from exporting goods and services to Iran. Authorities say there is no evidence to suggest the use of the software was linked to terrorists or the Iranian government, which has clashed with the U.S. over attempts to develop a nuclear program.

Officials with Arizona Public Service Co., which operates Palo Verde, said the software does not pose a security risk because it doesn’t control any of the nuclear plant’s operating systems and is mostly used to train employees.

I’m at a loss for words. Authorities say there is no evidence to suggest the use of the software was linked to terrorists or the Iranian government!!!

Let me see. He downloads software that contains details of control rooms, reactors and designs of the nation’s largest nuclear plant. He takes off for Iran with the software. It’s used to train plant employees. AND HIS NAME IS ‘Mohammad?!

It gets better.

Authorities said Alavi asked a Palo Verde software engineer to recommend a laptop and help him obtain a user name and password to access the software system. Another employee saw Alavi with that laptop in the simulator room, with a 3KeyMasterand screen displayed. The employee didn’t raise any alarms.


Gee. I wonder what the employee’s name was who gave him the laptop and access.

On Aug. 9, Alavi bought a one-way ticket to Tehran, Iran. His last day at the company was Aug. 14. Two days later, he left the country with his wife. In October, authorities say, the software system was accessed from a person using the Palo Verde user ID in Tehran. The software’s maker, Western Services in Maryland, had no idea that Alavi had resigned from Palo Verde and did not try to restrict his access, according to a federal affidavit. Nobody from Palo Verde informed Western Services that Alavi had quit his job at the power plant, the FBI said. The nuclear plant did not instruct the software company to remove Alavi’s user name or password from the company’s Web site.


A Keystone Cop performance if we ever saw one. I hope the fine people of Phoenix where the plant is located are sleeping will tonight.

Since the incident, APS has changed its policy and now requires plant managers to check a box to make sure former employees don’t have access to external software systems.

So our security against a terrorist attack that can radioactively poison millions of residents of the Phoenix – from Iran – is a checkbox. Oh, just wonderful.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in February downgraded Palo Verde’s rating to the rank of most regulated nuclear power plant in the nation, triggering more rigorous oversight and additional inspections.

Gee. I wonder why?

So, do we feel safer now?

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