Minnesota nuclear plant alert short-lived on TuesdayAn emergency alert declared Tuesday at the Prairie Island nuclear plant came just more than two months after a more serious one following a bleach spill.
By: Danielle Killey, The Republican Eagle
An emergency alert declared Tuesday at the Prairie Island nuclear plant came just more than two months after a more serious one following a bleach spill.
The plant declared a “notification of unusual event” at 6:24 Tuesday, and it was terminated by 11:36 a.m.
The alert was triggered by an indication that there was a decrease in water levels in the reactor coolant system in Unit 2, which is shut down for routine refueling. Further investigation revealed there was no leak, Xcel Energy officials said.
The alert was lifted following “thorough assessment of plant conditions” and Unit 2’s coolant system, Xcel officials said.
No radiation was released, there was no impact on the public or plant employees and plant operations were not affected by this event.
Unit 2 remains offline for its regular refueling outage, and Unit 1 is operating at full power.
The declaration is the lowest emergency level in the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s classification system.
The NRC will fully investigate the cause of the incident, agency officials said.
In January a more serious alert — one step above Tuesday’s — went on for more than 10 hours as crews cleaned up more than 522 gallons of spilled bleach.
Unlike during that bleach spill, the local Emergency Response Center was not assembled Tuesday, Goodhue County Emergency Management Director Diane Richter-Biwer said. Only a handful of people are officially notified for an alert at the local level, though she said she told others “in case it did escalate.”
“But this appeared to be a very minor event and luckily it terminated and nothing happened,” she said.
Prairie Island Indian Community members also were alerted of the event and kept up to date on events, Tribal Council officials said in a statement.
But the issue is still a concern to them.
“Today’s event at Xcel’s plant, no matter how small, is another reminder to our community of the dangers that exist for us every single day living 600 yards from a nuclear power plant and 725 tons of nuclear waste,” the statement said.
Xcel officials said as a precautionary measure all outage work in the immediate area has been suspended, though work in other areas of the plant will continue.
“The schedule and timeline for the outage will be re-evaluated following the completion of the event investigation,” Xcel spokeswoman Patti Nystuen said in an email.
The plant has faced other issues recently.
On Feb. 11, Xcel officials announced that nearly 4,000 gallons of water containing “small amounts” of tritium and “trace amounts” of other chemicals had been released by the plant since November. Most recently, 27 gallons of water from the heating system had overflowed on Feb. 3. The water poses no risk to the public, officials said.
In mid-February Xcel was cited for a security issue at the plant, in August it was cited for a safety violation involving battery chargers and a handful of other minor problems also have occurred.
“Due to the critical nature of the nuclear power industry, every event — whether large or small — is thoroughly evaluated for opportunities to improve safety and reliability,” Nystuen said of the incidents.
Still, the Prairie Island Indian Community is worried about the number of problems recently.
“We find it difficult to dismiss what appears to be an increasing number of plant incidents as ‘minor’ or ‘isolated’ events,” the tribal council said. “We hope that measures will be taken to prevent any further occurrences.”