Tornado hit Paducah plant Sunday

Last updated: November 18. 2013 8:23PM - 3015 Views
By - flewis@civitasmedia.com - 740-353-3101

File PhotoUSEC explains emergency scenario in the case of a tornado at the Piketon site.
File PhotoUSEC explains emergency scenario in the case of a tornado at the Piketon site.
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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

At 6:06 p.m. Sunday, the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant’s crisis manager terminated the emergency ALERT that was declared following the severe weather that passed through the McCracken County area on Sunday afternoon.

No injuries were reported as a result of storm damage and plant monitoring showed there were no radiological or hazardous material releases as a result of the storm damage. In addition, officials said monitoring will continue in order to confirm there was no damage. The report said the plant operations remain stable, and the plant’s Public Warning System (PWS) remains operational to alert the public if an emergency were to occur.

If that brings a question to you mind as to how a similar scenario would be handled if it occurred at the Piketon plant, you can rest assured management and employees work on that possibility on a regular basis.

“We have an emergency plan as a part of our license with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that we follow to notify the general public of what’s going on here at the site if needed,” Angie Duduit, Piketon American Centrifuge Public Affairs Manager, said. “And we practice that quarterly with our Emergency Operations Center and the joint Public Information Center, where if it got to the point where we had to hold news conferences, set up a citizen hot line, we have a protocol that’s in place.”

Duduit said Piketon, like Paducah, has a multi-level protocol.

“We have an emergency plan here at the site,” Duduit said. “It didn’t get to that level at Paducah yesterday (Sunday), but there are two emergency levels that are declared, and one is an alert and one is a site area emergency. And the site area emergency is usually declared when there is some sort of chance for some off-site impact which they didn’t have yesterday. So they just declared an alert, which meant is was just impacting on site.”

Just as Paducah activated their Emergency Operations Center, the Piketon facility would have done the same thing under the same set of circumstances.

“As far as notifying the media, what they used last night was their Twitter account, and they issued news releases to the local media, which we would do here as well,” Duduit said. “With an alert, you don’t actually sound the public warning sirens, but if there is a site area emergency and the chance for an off-site impact, we would sound public warning sirens.”

At Paducah, most of the damage was confined to the exteriors of plant structures. No production systems were affected and all critical safety systems continued to function as intended.

One of the plant’s four enrichment production buildings, the adjacent cooling towers and nearby electrical switch yard 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.

“As for the media, we would even have a ‘Dark Site,’ it’s a website that we would turn on if something happened to draw that sort of media attention, and the media needed to see updates,” Duduit said. “We would turn this website on. It has a lot of background information on the site as to when any news briefings would be held.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.

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