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Alert Lifted For Prairie Island Nuke Plant After Chem Spill

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) – Danger was averted but Xcel Energy says a chemical spill put the Prairie Island Nuclear Plant on a level two alert Thursday.

Xcel representatives say a break in a 2-inch pipe caused a chlorine bleach leak. The chemical is used to clean river water needed to cool the plant.

Around 2 p.m., the plant lifted the alert, but not before several hours of concern.

It was just before 4 a.m. when workers noticed a pipe leaking sodium hypochloride — a chemical bleach that’s used to treat the plant’s river water. It was minor, but enough to activate emergency procedures.

“There was no release of this chemical to the river, the material was contained to within inside the berm and there were no injuries associated with this event,” said Dennis Koehl, Xcel chief nuclear officer.

Nuclear Regulatory rules required a low-level alert. That caused schools in nearby Ellsworth and Prescott to delay their start and sent parents scrambling.

“Well, concerned because we were not sure if the extent of the danger,” said Joe Valentine, of Prescott. “Obviously, when you hear a leak at the nuclear plant …”

The alert activated the state’s emergency operations center and a public hotline was set up to answer calls.

“So when they heard there was an alert at the plant some people were concerned for their safety, so those were the questions they were asking,” said Kris Eide, director of Homeland Security.

The announcement from St. Paul reassured residents near Red Wing that public safety was not at risk — no need for evacuations.

Xcel later released photos showing crews cleaning up the bleach, as investigators tried to determine what caused all the trouble.

“Again there was no radiological release or threat of release and health was not threatened by this event,” Koehl said.

While the state emergency management was obligated to issue the alert, it is the second lowest of four.

It’s required to make sure emergency personnel are available if needed. There were no injuries to any workers and the plant’s nuclear reactors and generators remained in operation.

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