Aaaaah, yes, life in a company town. Not long after I moved here, I listened to the local radio station, and NSP was holding an event in one of the parks here, and they billed it as “a nuke house event for the whole family.” Really! They had a 10 or more foot Reddy Kilowatt, damn, I want one of those… and would you believe Tom Micheletti is CEO of Reddy Kilowatt corporation?

Anyway, a little Beagle told me that there was a radiation release at Prairie Island:

Nuclear plant workers exposed to radioactive gas

Anne Jacobson
Red Wing Republican Eagle
Published Tuesday, May 09, 2006

About a dozen workers at the Prairie Island nuclear plant were exposed to low levels of radiation last week, Nuclear Management Co. said Tuesday.

Some radioactive gas leaked into a containment building May 5 while workers were opening a steam generator in Unit 1. The procedure is part of normal maintenance during a refueling outage.

The plant evacuated about a hundred people as a safety precaution, Site Vice President Tom Palmisano said. About 12 people were exposed to low-level radiation equivalent to a dental X-ray. The workers, who were wearing protective suits, were cleaned up and sent home.

“We monitor for this. We know it can occur, so we spotted it very quickly. We had the workers exit the building,” he said. “Nobody was contaminated.”

The plant began a scheduled refueling and maintenance outage of Unit 1 on April 28.

The unit’s steam generators, which operate under about 2,000 pounds of pressure, were allowed to cool and depressurize. Some radioactive gas emits whenever a generator opens, he explained. Normally the gas is routed to a filtering and cleaning system, but the ventilator wasn’t working effectively or was slightly misaligned so a small amount of gas built up in the containment building.

No radioactivity was released the outdoors, said Jan Strasma, spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

After checking the hundred workers, Nuclear Management had the building’s air purified. Within 12 hours maintenance crews were back at work.

“We’re very conservative. We take the protection of our workers very seriously,” Palmisano said.

Exposure was between 10 to 15 millirems. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission limits a worker’s exposure to is 5,000 millirems of radiation in a year. Prairie Island’s internal limit is 2,000.

“What made this undesirable is that this was 10 millirems we were not expecting to get,” Palmisano said.

Nuclear Management Co. operates the plant for Xcel Energy and refuels each reactor about every 18 months. This outage will take several weeks and includes replacing the reactor’s vessel head, which represents a $25 million investment in the plant.

Prairie Island Unit 2â??s vessel head was replaced last year. Unit 2 continues operate during the Unit 1 outage and will be refueled this fall.

And in the STrib:

100 Prairie Island workers exposed to low radiation

100 repair workers inhaled radioactive gas for a short time last week at the Prairie Island nuclear plant in Red Wing. Repair workers breathed radioactive gas for a short time last week at the Prairie Island nuclear plant in Red Wing.

Tom Meersman, Star Tribune

Last update: May 09, 2006 â?? 9:40 PM

About 100 workers at the Prairie Island nuclear plant in Red Wing, Minn., were accidentally exposed to low levels of radiation last week, federal officials confirmed Tuesday. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the incident occurred on May 5, about a week after the plant had been shut down for scheduled maintenance and refueling.

There was no release of radioactivity to the outdoors, said Jan Strasma, spokesman for the commission, and the workers received about as much radiation as is contained in a single X-ray. “The exposure was small and did not have any health and safety consequences, ” Strasma said.

The workers left the area immediately, he said, and they were decontaminated before being allowed to go home.

Vince Guertin, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 949, said that he had no comment on the incident because he had not seen any report about it. The local represents many workers at the plant.

Arline Datu, spokeswoman for Nuclear Management Company, which operates Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants, said the workers were exposed after they entered the innermost portion of the nuclear plant called the containment area. It is sealed while a nuclear plant is operating, but is opened when the plant is inactive so that workers can access the reactor and other equipment for inspection, repair and refueling.

Datu said that radioactive iodine gas was inadvertently released onto the workers and inhaled when they opened “manways” into the steam generators. The radioactive iodine was in the air, she said, because of a tiny leak in one of the reactor’s many radioactive fuel assemblies.

Exposure to high levels of radioactive iodine, called iodine-131, can cause thyroid cancer and related problems.

Strasma said that the radioactive gas, even at very low levels, should have been removed by a carbon-based air filtration system before the workers entered the containment area, but for some reason that did not happen. “Our inspectors will be looking at this further,” he said.

Strasma said that Prairie Island has no history of similar problems, but that it’s not unusual to have relatively minor contamination during maintenance at nuclear plants. However, he said that Prairie Island was different in one respect: “The fact that 100 workers were exposed was a high number,” Strasma said.

Datu said that the radioactive iodine gas was cleared from the plant within 12 hours, and that the maintenance and other repair work has resumed. Utilities do not disclose how long repairs may take for competitive reasons, she said.

p.s. A little Beagle also told me that that the reactor is down from April 28 – June 1, 2006.


One Response to “Radiation Release — A Nuke House Event for the Whole Family!!!”

  1. Bruce Morlan Says:

    You ought to mention that the reported exposure (~11 millerems) was less than a single x-ray (~50 millerems) and much less than the estimated annual expoure due to cosmic radiation (~100 millerems) and that the overall risk from this radiation leak was much less than that experienced by people living downwind of a coal-fired plant. Indeed, I would bet that more people have been killed in traffic on the way to picket nuclear plants than have died in nuclear power plant radiation leaks associated with modern, Western technology-based, plants. I cannot guess for Soviet or other non-Western designs, but that is another issue. But, I am still glad that we found out about this immediately rather than hearing about it later on “Radio Free Europe”.

Leave a Reply