Officials say plant is safe

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 29, 2002


TAFT – “It went off just like a drill,” commented Tab Troxler, St. Charles Parish’s emergency operations director, regarding the March 23 alert at the Waterford 3 nuclear power plant. The power plant went on alert Saturday morning during its 11th scheduled refueling session, when two valves required to initiate the refueling shutdown cooling system failed to work properly.

By 10:20 a.m., plant operators declared an Alert status in accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Agency procedures, and the parishes directly affected, St. Charles and St. John the Baptist, were informed by 10:26 a.m. Alert is the second emergency action level in the four-level, response plan for nuclear reactors.

The NRC Region IV response center in Arlington, Texas, was on alert status as well by 11:15 a.m.

Through staff efforts, the valves were successfully opened and the Alert terminated by 11:50 a.m. And the normal plant cooldown was resumed at 1:30 p.m.

No radiation released happened, NRC spokeswoman Diane Park said. All off-site agencies in St. Charles and St. John the Baptist parishes responded in minutes, as well as the La. Department of Environmental Quality and the La. Office of Emergency Preparedness.

“It was a little unusual for them to call us,” Troxler observed. “I was in here doing computer work. In five minutes, I had either spoken with or was on the phone with all the major decision-makers.”

The St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center, located in the basement of the courthouse at Hahnville and manned 24 hours a day, was fully activated in five minutes. “I was very pleased,” Troxler said, and recalled a drill was conducted as recently as December to stay prepared.

“Mr. Laque was also in close contact with me throughout the event,” Troxler said of Parish President Albert Laque.

Similarly, in St. John Parish, Civil Defense Director Paul Oncale was likewise prepared and ready.

“Everything was fine and there was no threat to the general public,” Oncale said.

The St. John Emergency Operations Center likewise was activated and remained in constant contact with their counterpart in St. Charles Parish. Both EOCs similarly had a technical advisor from Waterford 3 arrived for consultation and information.

Also, St. John Parish President Nickie Monica and Sheriff Wayne L. Jones were kept informed as to the unusual event.