updated 10/13/2010 2:01:36 PM ET 2010-10-13T18:01:36

A device that prompted the temporary closure Wednesday of the entrance to a nuclear power plant west of Phoenix was apparently a smoke flare, authorities said.

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Brian Lee said the device was found on the floorboard of an employee's car at a security checkpoint a mile from the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station at about daybreak. At first glance it looked like a stick of dynamite, so plant security closed the checkpoint to traffic as a precaution.

Power plant operations weren't affected and the checkpoint was reopened.

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The employee was being questioned but Lee said she has not been arrested.

A sheriff's bomb squad planned to take the device to a safe area and detonate it.

The triple-reactor plant 50 miles west of Phoenix is the nation's largest nuclear power facility. It is owned by APS and a consortium of western power companies.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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