A press release from Exelon, the operator of the Byron Nuclear Power Plants that are not operating properly:
Byron Station Declares Unusual Event
Operators at Byron Generating Station declared an Unusual Event at 10:18 a.m. CT, due to the loss of offsite power and Unit 2 coming offline; iesel generators start as designed
BYRON, Ill. (January 30, 2012) – Operators at Byron Generating Station declared an Unusual Event at 10:18 a.m. CT, due to the loss of offsite power and Unit 2 coming offline.
The nuclear facility’s diesel generators activated as designed to provide power to the facility when there is a loss of offsite power to the facility.
The facility remains in a safe condition.
Station engineering experts are looking into the cause of the loss of offsite power.
Byron Station is designed to depressurize to reduce steam pressure as part of the many redundant safety systems built into the facility.
Steam from the unit is released through safety relief valves that are specifically designed for this purpose.
The steam, which will evaporate quickly, contained expected levels of tritium.
Local residents may see or hear the steam release in progress, which will continue throughout the day until the unit cools down.
These types of station releases are regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
There is no health or safety impact to workers or to the public from the release, and Exelon Nuclear has notified all appropriate local, state and federal officials of the Unusual Event.
An Unusual Event is the lowest of four emergency classifications established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen with a weak level of radioactivity. It is formed naturally in the upper atmosphere, is a component of rain and is found in virtually all of earth’s surface water. Tritium is produced in greater concentrations in commercial nuclear reactors and is routinely discharged into the environment under strict regulatory guidelines. Tritium eventually breaks down into helium.
Byron’s Unit 1 continues to supply clean electricity to Exelon customers.
Byron Generating Station is in Ogle County, Ill., about 25 miles southwest of Rockford.
Below is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission press release about the situation:
NRC MONITORING AN EVENT AT BYRON NUCLEAR PLANT
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission Region III office in Lisle, Illinois, has activated its incident response center and entered monitoring mode due to an Unusual Event declared at the Byron nuclear power plant Unit 2.
The plant automatically shut down in response to the loss of offsite power.
Smoke was seen from an onsite station transformer.
When the plant’s fire brigade responded, no evidence of fire was found.
The diesel generators are currently supplying power to plant equipment.
Steam is currently being released from the non-nuclear side of the plant to aid in the cooling process.
The steam release does not present a threat to the public.
Unit 1 remains at full power.
NRC resident inspectors at the plant are monitoring the situation in consultation with staff in the Region 3 office in Lisle, Ill.
An Unusual Event is the lowest of four levels of the NRC’s emergency classification system.