Radiation Hits Workers at U.S. Nuke Plant

Wednesday, April 13, 2011 @ 11:04 PM gHale

A reactor at a Nebraska nuclear plant is now under the microscope after three workers received “unplanned radiation exposures” last week, said officials at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The Nebraska Public Power District, which operates the Cooper Nuclear Station, doesn’t believe the workers received higher doses than allowed under NRC regulations in the April 3 incident, the agency said.

The workers suffered the exposure while removing a radioactive tube from the bottom of the reactor, rather than following procedure and taking it from the top, the NRC said. When radiation alarms triggered, the workers set down the tube and immediately left the reactor area, the regulator said.

“We want to understand why normal work practices were not followed,” said Elmo Collins, a regional administrator for the NRC in Arlington, Texas.

The NRC announced the inspection at the Cooper plant, 23 miles south of Nebraska City, while conducting a 90-day safety review of all U.S. reactors. The examination was a result of the partial meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant in Japan, which suffered damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The Nebraska Public Power District will cooperate fully with the investigation, Mark Becker, a spokesman for the utility, said in an interview.

The plant was in shut down mode March 13 for refueling, Becker said. The plant is to restart later this month, he said. No radiation released “external to the plant,” he said.

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