Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chlorine bleach leaks at Minnesota nuclear plant

A two-inch break in a pipe leading to a chlorine bleach tank caused a chemical spill Thursday at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island nuclear plant on the Mississippi River near Red Wing, but officials said no radiological material was released.

A worker at the plant discovered the break shortly before 4 a.m. About 500 gallons of chlorine bleach, used to clean river water needed to cool the plant, spilled inside the building that holds the tank. Dennis Koehl, Xcel Energy's chief nuclear officer, said none of the bleach leaked into the river.

"The health and safety of the public was not at risk at any point," Koehl said at a briefing in St. Paul with the state's director of homeland security. Koehl said no plant workers were hurt.

Koehl said it was not immediately known what caused the pipe to break. He said Xcel would conduct an investigation to determine what happened.

The alert was the second lowest in a four-level federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission system for nuclear plant emergencies. Koehl said it was the first time the plant, in operation since 1973, has registered an alert on the federal system. The plant, about six miles northwest of Red Wing, has two reactors that generate enough power for nearly 1 million homes. Read More