Tornado hits U.S. nuclear facility – Uranium enrichment building damaged — Parts of cooling towers destroyed — Alert declared for ‘emergency condition’ (PHOTOS)

Published: November 19th, 2013 at 2:15 am ET
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Portsmouth Daily Times, Nov. 18, 2013: Tornado hit Paducah plant Sunday [in Kentucky]

WPSD, Nov. 17, 2013: One of the plant’s four enrichment production buildings, the adjacent cooling towers and nearby electrical switchyard sustained most of the damage. Several of the transite panels that cover the building were torn off or broken. Electrical power poles, wiring and other electrical circuits were also damaged. The shrouds or collars that surround the fans on this set of cooling towers were destroyed.

Damaged cooling tower (SOURCE: USEC)

NBC Lexington, KY, Nov. 18, 2013: Officials were continuing to monitor the facility Monday, but said there had been no hazardous material releases, according to the statement.

NRC Report, Nov. 17, 2013: [A]n alert was declared at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant due to an apparent tornado strike/severe weather event. [...] “This event is reportable under 10 CFR 76.120(a)(4) where an emergency condition has been declared an Alert. [...]”

The Courier Journal, Nov. 18, 2013: USEC stopped enriching uranium there in June.

Nearly all news outlets covering the Paducah tornado claim the plant stopped enriching uranium earlier this year. However, according to this report, (Emphasis Added) “On 14 November 2013 Russia has shipped the last batch of low-enriched uranium [...] The cargo will be delivered to Baltimore and then to USEC’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Kentucky, where the uranium will be used to manufacture fuel for U.S. nuclear power plants.”

Also note the vast majority of reports only say that no “hazardous materials” were released — releases of “radioactive material” are not denied or admitted (see USEC’s twitter feed). The plant’s internal documents clearly distinguish between “hazardous” and “radioactive”. For example, APPENDIX F reads, “Categories of waste evaluated were LLW [low-level radioactive waste], TRU [transuranic waste], hazardous waste […] All low-level mixed (radioactive and hazardous) waste (LLMW) and hazardous waste at these sites are transported off site.”

Interestingly, USEC’s last tweet before the tornado hits is a message promoting a local showing of CNN’s much maligned pro-nuclear film ‘Pandora’s Promise‘, an event they appear to be sponsoring.

See more photos of the damage at the plant on USEC’s twitter feed here

Published: November 19th, 2013 at 2:15 am ET
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88 comments

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