Posts Tagged ‘notification’

Nuclear plant’s website may automate notifications of onsite alerts like the one that occurred with an ammonia leak Tuesday. Emergency procedures don’t require public announcements of low-level, nonradioactive alerts, but some south San Clemente residents who heard the plant’s onsite sirens were left wondering what was going on.


SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Southern California Edison is considering enhancing its public communication procedure so that information about onsite alerts at the utility’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, like the one that occurred Tuesday, would be made available automatically on the plant’s website.

On Tuesday, information about an ammonia leak did not appear on SONGS’ site until two hours after the alert was declared about 3 p.m. and workers near the leak began being evacuated.

Article Tab: San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station containment domes can be seen looking south from near the entrance to San Onofre Surf Beach on Tuesday afternoon while a low-level alert was going on at the plant.
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station containment domes can be seen looking south from near the entrance to San Onofre Surf Beach on Tuesday afternoon while a low-level alert was going on at the plant.
Under existing procedures, Tuesday’s event did not require a public announcement, according to Edison spokesman Gil Alexander, which is why community-alert sirens did not sound in nearby cities and no announcement was made onKWVE/107.9 FM – Orange County’s primary Emergency Alert System station – or KOGO/600 AM in San Diego County.

Alexander said that soon after the leak was discovered he made several calls to media outlets, including The Orange County Register, to say the ammonia leak was nonradioactive and that the alert was confined to the plant.

SONGS personnel noted the leak in a non-nuclear area of the plant’s Unit 3 reactor and declared an “unusual event,” the lowest of four emergency classifications. At that level, there is no leak of radioactive materials, though plant safety is considered reduced.

As required by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, SONGS notified the NRC and the regional Interjurisdictional Planning Committee– consisting of several city, county, state and private agencies – via a special “yellow” phone line within 15 minutes.

But south San Clemente residents Skip and Traci Streets wish more information had been readily available to the public. They heard sirens sounding at the plant some two miles away in their Cypress Cove neighborhood Tuesday afternoon, unsure whether it was a test or an actual emergency. They said they searched the SONGS website but saw no advisory except for a general notice to tune to KWVE for information in case of an emergency. With no announcements on the radio as the sirens persisted, the pair eventually called Southern California Edison and the city of San Clemente.

“The sirens kept going … we called around but no one knew anything,” Traci Streets said. “My mom lives down here, too, but was in Newport for dinner, so we just decided to go up there and eat with her and hope nothing was going on.”

Jen Tucker, San Clemente’s emergency-planning officer, said that when San Clemente is notified of an event via the yellow phone, she follows guidelines that begin with notifying the city manager and initiating the city’s Emergency Planning Center. About 50 municipal employees are activated to emergency-response positions within about 35 minutes, she said. That applies not only to events at SONGS but also to earthquakes, tsunamis and other natural emergencies. The EPC then stands by to implement emergency services according to guidelines set by the IPC. Tucker said the city of San Clemente is responsible for activating the 19 sirens within city limits.

In Tuesday’s case, the response was based on information communicated by SONGS.

At the two highest alert levels, involving radioactive releases, all sirens across Orange County would be activated simultaneously and public announcements would be made on KWVE and KOGO, Tucker said.

On Tuesday, KWVE was notified by the county Emergency Operations Center of the situation at SONGS, but due to the low level of the alert, the station was not required nor asked to make an announcement, according to station engineer Marcos O’Rourke. At 4:27 p.m., the station did broadcast news of the event, he said.

San Clemente closed its EPC about 45 minutes after SONGS ended the alert at 6:07 p.m., Tucker said. She said she was happy with her team’s performance.

“This is reassurance for the residents of San Clemente,” she said.

Tucker said she expected as many as 50 phone calls from local residents about the incident but instead had received six by late Wednesday afternoon, including one from San Juan Capistrano.

Alexander said SONGS community relations received about a dozen calls and Edison customer service received a few.

Alexander said that before Tuesday, the most recent alert declared at SONGS was May 9, 2010, after earth movement was detected at the plant following an earthquake in Baja California.


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