Nuclear alert a “learning experience”Last week’s alert at Prairie Island nuclear plant was a learning experience, officials said.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
Last week’s alert at Prairie Island nuclear plant was a learning experience, officials said.
Law enforcement, staff and others involved in Thursday’s event said the operation went well overall. They said it was evident that drills done in the past paid off.
However, it did point out some room for improvement.
“Everybody worked very well together,” city Emergency Management Director Roger Hand said. “But we did discover a few issues.”
On Jan. 5, operators declared the alert at 3:53 a.m. after workers discovered sodium hypochlorite — commonly known as chlorine bleach — leaking from a tank. The alert was terminated by 2:08 p.m. as crews cleaned up the more than 522 gallons of bleach.
Those involved reflected on the event Thursday and have continued discussing what went right and wrong.
“Everybody came away feeling this was a very good learning experience for us,” Hand said.
Some things didn’t work the way they were supposed to on Thursday, he noted, mainly involving communication problems.
For example, schools didn’t have quite enough information about the severity of the event to determine whether they should close or not, Hand said. As a precaution, Prescott and Ellsworth schools delayed the start of classes Thursday.
Communication about the alert and establishing the local emergency operations center also hit some snags along the way, he said.
Changes stemming from the event could include more training, updated call lists and possibly developing a plan for a rumor control telephone number, officials said last week.
“There are a lot of things we’re going to look at in response to this,” Hand said.
The Red Wing City Council discussed the event Monday as members reviewed the city emergency response plan for the nuclear plant.
The document is reviewed every year, Hand said. Last week’s alert shouldn’t change the plan because it is more general, he said. Instead, specific agencies and departments will focus on their pieces of emergency response that need changing or strengthening.
The council will vote on the plan at its next meeting.