Hanford plant undergoes emergency shutdown
RICHLAND, Wash. (2:39 p.m.) -- Washington state’s only commercial nuclear reactor remained out of service while technicians tried to determine why an automatic shutdown system failed during a test Friday.
State emergency officials said there was no release of radiation and no danger to the public. It was not immediately known when the Columbia Generating Station reactor would be restarted.
The failure triggered an alert in which state agencies prepared to respond if needed to help Benton and Franklin counties near the reservation.
But Brad Peck, spokesman for the reactor’s operator, Energy Northwest, said the reactor was stable and the alert was canceled at 11:57 a.m., about two hours after it was declared. The reactor, which produces power for the Northwest electricity grid, would remain out of service until crews determine what caused the problem, he said.
Energy Northwest spokeswoman Heather McMurdo said lights on a control panel showed that two of 185 control rods did not fully insert into the reactor during the test. The rods, which control the reactor’s operation, were inserted manually about 10 a.m., she said.
Backup systems operated correctly and the alert could have been canceled when the control rods were manually inserted, but plant operators wanted to err on the side of caution, McMurdo said.
“It was conservative for us to have remained in an alert status,” she said. Rob Harper, spokesman for the Washington state Emergency Operations Center, said that although there was no threat to the public, the center at the National Guard’s Camp Murray was activated, as called for under the plant’s emergency plan. The center deactivated shortly before 1 p.m., he said.
The state Department of Health dispatched a field team to take air samples and soil readings as a precautionary measure, he said.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesmen in Dallas and Washington, D.C., did not immediately return calls for comment Friday afternoon.
Columbia Generating Station is a boiling water reactor that produces 1,150 megawatts of electricity, which is sold to the Bonneville Power Administration.
Formerly known as the Washington Public Power Supply System No. 2 reactor, it is the only one of five reactors started in the late 1970s to be completed before construction was halted in 1982-83.
Facilities licensed by the NRC have four classes of emergencies in order of increasing severity.
An alert is the second level. When an alert is declared, events are in process or have occurred which involve an actual or potential substantial degradation in the level of safety of the plant, according to an NRC Web site. On the Net: Energy Northwest: http://www.energy-northwest.com/main.html Nuclear Regulatory Commission: http://www.nrc.gov/
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