The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

August 3, 2013

Ala. nuclear plant ends alert over CO2 leak

— COLUMBIA, Ala. (AP) — A carbon dioxide leak prompted an Alabama nuclear plant to declare a five-hour alert on Saturday, though federal authorities said the incident did not threaten the public.

The carbon dioxide leak was detected around 5:20 a.m. inside an auxiliary building serving the Unit 1 reactor at the Joseph Farley Nuclear Plant, about 18 miles south of Dothan, according to Alabama Power spokesman Ike Pigott. The firm then declared an alert, the second-lowest of four emergency classifications used by federal regulators.

The utility ended the alert at 11:10 a.m.

Initial indications show that the gas came from a fire suppression system, though no fires were detected or reported. Carbon dioxide is often used to put out fires at industrial sites because it can extinguish flames without damaging sensitive equipment.

The volume of gas detected was equivalent to what might be released from a large fire extinguisher, Pigott said.

Both reactors at the plant continued operating normally, Pigott said. No injuries or other equipment failures were reported. No radiation was released during the incident.

Inspectors for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission were monitoring the alert, but they did not believe it posed any threat to the public, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.

The first reactor at Plant Farley started operating in 1977. Alabama Power is a subsidiary of the Atlanta-based Southern Co.

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