Jul 31, 2004
- Hanford Plant Shutdown Sounds 'Uncommon Alert'
- An emergency shutdown stopped power production at the Columbia Generating Station nuclear reactor in southeastern
Washington on Friday morning but posed no health threat to workers or the public, state officials said. At about 9:30 a.m., the
reactor sensed some problem and automatically shut itself off, said Brad Peck, spokesman for the reactor's owner, Energy
Northwest. Workers had noticed high pressure readings in the reactor vessel, Peck said, but engineers don't yet know whether that
caused the shutdown or was unrelated. The reactor will not restart until engineers find and fix the problem, he said. The shutdown
led Energy Northwest to declare an uncommon alert, the second-lowest of four emergency levels. That level notifies emergency
response workers of a problem but means there is no safety threat, Peck said. The roughly 125 people working at the plant
northeast of Richland, Wash., were not evacuated, he said. Peck and the Oregon Office of Energy both said monitors detected no
radiation releases. The nuclear reactor, on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, normally produces 1,157 megawatts of electricity,
enough to power a medium-to-large city. Energy Northwest, a joint operating agency of 19 Washington public utilities, sells that
power to the Bonneville Power Administration. Spokesman Ed Mosey said the BPA has increased its hydropower generation to
make up for the losses. But if the plant remains closed for a while, the BPA might have to purchase more-expensive electricity on
the open market.