Authorities: Nuclear engineer sought ‘thrill’ in DuPage hijacking

A man who operates reactors at a nuclear power plant was “thrill seeking” when he put on a mask and hijacked a woman’s car at gunpoint, DuPage County authorities said Friday.

Michael Buhrman, a senior reactor operator at Dresden Nuclear Power Plant in Morris, was charged with aggravated vehicular hijacking.

Authorities said the 31-year-old Coal City man was armed with a loaded handgun and wearing a Halloween mask that resembled an elderly man when he approached a woman about 10 p.m. Wednesday in a Kohl’s parking lot in Woodridge.

After stealing the victim’s 2000 Pontiac Grand Am, Buhrman fled and was pursued by a witness who called police, authorities said. No shots were fired and no injuries were reported.

Woodridge officers stopped him nearby and took him into custody without incident, police said. They said Buhrman was still wearing the “realistic” mask and carrying a loaded .45 caliber gun.

Authorities said Buhrman later confessed the hijacking was a “stupid thing” to do and that he was only “thrill seeking.”

He was identified in court Friday as a nuclear engineer at Dresden, where he has been a licensed senior reactor operator for six years, according to his public LinkedIn profile. Before that, he studied nuclear engineering at Excelsior College in Albany, N.Y., and worked as a reactor operator and nuclear electronics technician for the U.S. Navy, the profile states.

A Dresden spokesman said the plant does not comment on its employees’ personal activities. In operation since 1960, the facility southwest of Joliet in Grundy County is described on its website as the “nation’s first full-scale, privately funded nuclear power plant.”

Buhrman appeared in bond court Friday and was released after paying $20,000. He could not be reached for comment.

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