Environment News Service

HYDROGEN EXPLOSION SHUTS NEBRASKA NUCLEAR REACTOR

A hydrogen gas explosion at the Cooper Nuclear Power Plant near Brownville, Nebraska Friday has caused the shutdown of the Nebraska Public Power District reactor. An "unusual event" was declared and area residents were notified, although no evacuations took place. The building in which the explosion happened is separate from the main reactor building. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Breck Henderson told ENS that there was no release of radioactive materials "greater than technical specification limits." Henderson said some radioactivity is present in all gases released from nuclear plants. The plant is now stable in cold shutdown mode. An electrical problem in sump pumps at the base of the plant's gas release towers caused the hydrogen explosion. This pumping system is used to remove radioactivity from the gases released into the atmosphere, so the reactor is not permitted to operate if these pumps are not in service. The licensee stated that there is no possibility that another explosion would occur at this time because the system has been purged of all hydrogen gas.

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