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UPDATED: 30 Gallons of Leaked Ammonia Contained at Nuke Plant

Orange County activated its Emergency Operations Center, but there was no immediate threat to safety when the chemical escaped from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, officials said.

A non-radioactive leak triggered an alert at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on Tuesday afternoon.

Southern California Edison declared the alert after identifying an ammonia leak in the steam system used to drive the plant's turbines.

The approximately 30 gallons of leaked ammonia was being collected in a basin underneath the tank that was designed for that purpose.

Because of the strong ammonia smell, there was a precautionary evacuation of some plant workers whose jobs are located close to where the leak was found, spokesman Scott Andresen said.

No injuries were reported.

Orange County activated its Emergency Operations Center, but told cities there was no threat to citizens or surrounding communities.

The sirens first sounded at about 3 p.m. and the alert was lifted shortly before 6:30 p.m.

The chemical leaked from the Unit 3 steam system outside the plant's dome. The ammonia is used to clean resin in the turbines.

The alert was required because fumes could prevent access to certain areas of the plant. The control room remained staffed and fully operational, and the plant was operating at full power, officials said.

Roberto November 02, 2011 at 01:39 AM
This sounds like 19% aqueous ammonia.
John Crandall November 02, 2011 at 02:19 AM
Roberto, Could you explain for us non-science types what 19 percent would mean? Does mean 81 percent of it is gas?
Terry Robinson November 02, 2011 at 02:07 PM
Can someone tell me why people in San Juan were getting phone calls from SDG&E warning of a situation at the plant and I for one in San Clemente did not? They also received a follow up call to let them know the problem had been taken care of...and again I did not.
JT November 02, 2011 at 03:18 PM
No injuries reported "they say"? Based on SONGS past track record, many situations have gone un-reported due to the threat of retaliation to the whistle-blower. Worst safety record out of all 104 plants in the country. If ammonia can make its way through the cracks, then anything can. Lets face it folks. SONGS is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Wake up SCE, you're asleep behind the wheel, and we're done with the lip service! Decommission SONGS now while we still have the chance. The risks FAR out-weigh the benefits. No argument there. Oh, and by the way....This finally became a level 2 rather than the original statement of it being the lowest alert on the scale which is a level one, and SONGS waited almost an hour to alert the media. Hmmmmmm, wonder why? What else are you NOT telling us? Enjoy your black eye!
CE November 02, 2011 at 05:27 PM
John, it means it's 19% ammonia and 81% water. Household ammonia is generally 5 to 10% ammonia in water.
Jackie Connor November 02, 2011 at 10:15 PM
I didn't understand that, as well...I'll have to check that out.
Joel Peshkin November 03, 2011 at 03:14 AM
San Juan residents got calls from the City of San Juan Capistrano. San Juan has been very active in getting set up with AlertOC ( http://bos.ocgov.com/alertoc/alertoc.asp ). San Clemente is also part of the system, but I don't know if they used it for public notices for this. In my experience, if you don't use these things for less urgent notices (like this one) from time to time, they won't work when something really urgent is happening. In San Juan, we probably get a citywide message 2 or 3 times a year. When the house phone and all the cell phones ring at the same time, you know something is up.
Terry Robinson November 03, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Thank you for the info Joel. I was so surprised to hear from my friend in San Juan who called to check if I in San Clemente was asked to evacuate.....WHAT....WHY? I will follow up with San Clemente and hopefully get to the bottom of this. Jackie.....were you able to get any info?
Jackie Connor November 03, 2011 at 10:08 PM
As stated by SONGS Media Relations Gil Alexander, SONGS notified six different media outlets (including San Clemente Patch) minutes after the leak/emergency occurred. The leak was not considered a threat to public health and safety, therefore did not require public notification. San Clemente Emergency Planner, Jen Tucker also confirmed San Clemente would have used the 'alertoc' if the public needed to take immediate action, which, in this case, the public did not. As far as the City of San Juan Capistrano goes, they did alert the public because they knew the media would be covering the alert, therefore they sent out two notifications to the public to save from answering questions, said San Juan Capistrano Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Canter. The notification iterated the fact that the event was not a danger to the public. Hope this answers your question!
pandano November 03, 2011 at 10:12 PM
Whether or not it's the reason San Clemente residents didn't get a phone call, Joel's observation above regarding "less urgent notices (like this one)" puts things in their proper perspective. Activation of the county emergency response center for a small chemical spill at a large industrial facility illustrates how tight the regulatory requirements are and how seriously they're taken. Only those driven by an agenda or irrational fear are capable of a greater over-response.
Terry Robinson November 04, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Thank you for the info Jackie, but I can't help but think that the explanation you were given sounds like a lot of spin. Thankfully it wasn't a true emergency situation and that this was a little test to make sure they have all their ducks in a row for any future 'situations'.
Jackie Connor November 04, 2011 at 02:43 PM
what part of it would you consider to be 'spun?'
Terry Robinson November 04, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Hi Jackie....for one thing their reasoning for contacting San Juan by phone while allowing 6 media outlets to inform the public in general including San Clemente. Just sounds a bit odd to me.

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