Blast injures man

at old munitions site

PHOENIX — A former munitions maker who once owned an Arizona property where a man was wounded in an explosion this week says that whatever blew up didn’t belong to him.

Steven Scott Lane, 49, remained hospitalized Thursday after losing part of his left foot and suffering severe injuries to his right leg.

Two witnesses initially told authorities that Lane had been helping them move out of a rented home on the property outside Phoenix on Monday night when he stepped on something buried in the ground that exploded.

Investigators later said the property hadn’t been rented to anyone and was supposed to be vacant, and that whatever exploded wasn’t buried.

Authorities remained at the site Thursday sweeping the area for munitions as they continued to investigate whether the blast was related to the property’s previous owner, who produced explosives there two decades ago.

“I know it is nothing that we left there that would go off,” Charles Byers told KGTV in San Diego.

Byers owned the property in the 1990s and made numerous explosive devices there, but he said he kept everything locked up in storage units that “exceeded government specifications.”

In 1997, federal agents raided the property and discovered enough explosives to support a small army. Byers later pleaded guilty in federal court to illegally possessing grenade fuses and manufacturing ammunition. He was sentenced to probation.

In 1999, a state task force declared the 120-acre ranch safe after removing thousands of pounds of chemical explosives, including materials to make grenades and booby traps.

No charges have been filed in the case.

Steam valve causes

problem at Palo Verde

WINTERSBURG — Power output at one of Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station’s three reactors has been cut because of a problem with a main steam valve, plant operator Arizona Public Service said Thursday.

Operators at the plant 50 miles west of Phoenix discovered the problem Wednesday afternoon and the Unit 1 reactor was cut to 60 percent power, APS spokesman Jim McDonald said.

The problem occurred in a valve that is normally open on one of the reactor’s two steam generators, Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks said. The generators use water heated in the reactor to produce steam, which turns turbines connected to electrical generators. Each steam generator has two main steam valves, which must be able to close in less than 5 seconds in certain situations.

Dricks said a crew doing routine maintenance inadvertently overpressurized a part of the valve-control mechanism, rendering one valve inoperative.

NRC operating rules require a reactor shutdown if a main steam valve doesn’t work, and APS was powering down the reactor when crews managed to close the valve. They kept the reactor at 60 percent power once the valve was closed and are allowed to run the plant at that setting as long as needed.

McDonald said it may take several days for the problem to be repaired.

Engineers are already working to fix a tiny leak in the reactor vessel at the plant’s Unit 3 that was discovered after the reactor was shut down for refueling Oct. 5. That unit isn’t expected to be back online until next month.

NAU gets $5 million

to train CPS workers

FLAGSTAFF — The state is providing a $5 million grant to Northern Arizona University to help provide new caseworkers to Child Protective Services.

The university will use the money for program costs and tuition reimbursements for social-work students who become CPS caseworkers, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.

The Department of Economic Security, CPS’ parent state agency, will get up to 100 new CPS workers out of its partnership with Northern Arizona University’s social work program over the next five years. Graduates would have to remain CPS caseworkers for a specific period of time to qualify for the reimbursement for tuition for up to two years.

Natalie Cawood, social work program coordinator for the university’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said there’s a need for highly trained workers in the child welfare system.“We are really pleased to be able to partner with DES to support students, to improve the workforce and, in the end, to be able to impact families in a really positive way,” Cawood said.

Two in race to be

new Hopi chairman

FLAGSTAFF — Two men who have served as vice chairman of the Hopi Tribe, including one who resigned from office, appear to be headed to the general election to face off for the chairman’s post.

Unofficial results from the tribe’s primary election Wednesday showed Herman Honanie, the current vice chairman, and Todd Honyaoma Sr. topping the list of eight candidates. More than 1,450 Hopis cast ballots in the race that also narrowed the four vice chairman candidates to two.

Votes can be challenged until Nov. 13.

Honanie was elected vice chairman in 2009, after a rare vacancy in the office because of Honyaoma’s resignation. Honanie previously served as director of the tribe’s health office and held village leadership positions in Kykotsmovi. Honanie said Thursday that he strives to be personable and open with the Hopi people, and ask for their advice in enhancing the tribal government.

Honyaoma, a former Tribal Council member and heavy equipment operator, opened a tire repair shop after he resigned as vice chairman in late 2008, a year before his term expired. He and former Chairman Ben Nuvamsa, who resigned at the same time, clashed during much of their time in office. The tangle focused mostly on whether Nuvamsa met residency requirements, but allegations of fraud and disrespect for traditional leaders also arose.

The Associated Press