Cordova nuclear plant alert blamed on water leak

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A pipe that leaked water onto electrical equipment was at the center of an alert that shut down one of the reactors at the Exelon nuclear plant in Cordova, Illinois.

Heavy smoke was visible from a reported electrical fire at the Exelon Nuclear Plant in Cordova, Illinois.

Fire was reported at the facility just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, 2014 at the Quad Cities Generating Station at 22710 206th Avenue. That was two days after the Unit 2 reactor had been shut down for work on a valve.

Initial, unconfirmed reports indicated an electrical fire happened inside the plant, and that heavy smoke was visible outside the facility.

Firefighters and equipment from at least four departments were sent to the plant.  Cordova Fire Protection District Chief Chuck Smalley later said a total of 68 personnel responded from various departments.

There were no immediate reports of any injuries or area impact associated with the possible fire.  Exelon spokesman Bill Stoermer later said employees were evacuated as a precaution, but that no one was in any danger from the incident.

Exelon classified the incident as an "alert," saying that is the second-lowest of four emergency classifications established by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Stoermer confirmed smoke was visible, but said it may have come from an electrical "short" and that actual fire was not yet confirmed.

"It appears that there could have been an electrical short," Stoermer said.  "There is a lot of electrical cabling, as you can imagine, inside the power plant.  So, they'll take a hard look at all of their electrical cabling and determine, 'Did something short out or what happened there?' that would have caused maybe some smoke or some sparks."

The activity happened in Unit 2, the same reactor that was taken out of service the evening of March 31 to "replace a valve on the control rod drive system," according to a statement from Exelon.  The valve replacement could not be performed while the unit was operating.  That shutdown did not affect electrical service.

The April 2 incident happened as Unit 2 was being re-started after the shutdown.

Stoermer said they would assess Unit 2 before it was restarted.  He said representatives from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would investigate the April 2 incident.

"The NRC’s primary concern right now is to make sure the public is protected and that the plant operator is taking swift and appropriate action to continue to maintain plant safety," said NRC spokesperson Viktoria Mitlyng.  "Once the situation is resolved, the NRC will fully inspect the cause of and contributing factors to the event."

"We train with these guys, we know this plant, so it all went very well today," Chief Smalley said.

"There is no impact to public health or safety or to plant personnel," Stoermer said. Unit 1 remained at full power.

Exelon operators ended their "alert" status for Unit 2 at 9:32 p.m. April 2. Stoermer said the smoke at Unit 2 was caused by a pipe that released water onto an electrical system which caused an electrical fault.