Radioactive Leak Shuts Down N.Y. Power Plant

A leak in the cooling system of a nuclear reactor in northern New York prompted the declaration of an alert yesterday, but officials said workers and residents were not in danger.

A leak in the cooling system of the Indian Point 2 nuclear reactor in northern Westchester, N.Y., prompted the declaration of an alert yesterday, but officials said workers and residents were not in danger.

"There is no danger to the health and welfare of the general public," said Steve Quinn, vice president of utility Consolidated Edison (Con Edison), in a news conference early Wednesday.

The accident forced Con Edison, which owns and operates the plant, to declare an alert and shut down the plant.

An alert is the second-lowest of four emergency classifications for nuclear plants, which are an unusual event, an alert, a site-area emergency and a general emergency.

No plant workers were injured in the accident or exposed to an amount of radiation above that in a normal workday, according to Quinn.

"All radiation measurements around the plant and in the community are within normal readings," said Quinn.

Officials estimate about 1 cubic foot of gas had escaped from the plant's containment building -- the sealed concrete building that holds the reactor -- into the air outside, constituting a "completely immeasurable" amount of radiation.

It wasn't immediately known what caused the leak, which happened in a tube used to carry hot, radioactive, high-pressure water to a pool of cool non-radioactive water.

Steam, produced when the hot water hits the cool water, turns a turbine and generates electricity.

The steam was automatically released through a vent in the roof of the containment building.

A monitor in the vent detected radioactivity and sealed the vent after just a few seconds.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said today that plant operators "have stabilized the plant and are in control of all systems" after manually shutting down the reactor. It said the operators successfully isolated the generator where the leak occurred.

The plant was shut down Tuesday and is to remain closed for maintenance for at least a week.Power will be provided by other plants in the region.

The plant produces about a seventh of the power Con Edison supplies to its 3 million customers. The alert was the first in the plant's 26 years of operation.

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