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Oregon Alert
Jul 31, 2004 

Hanford Plant Shutdown Sounds 'Uncommon Alert'
An emergency shutdown stopped power production at the Columbia Generating Station nuclear reactor in southeastern Washington on Friday morning but posed no health threat to workers or the public, state officials said. At about 9:30 a.m., the reactor sensed some problem and automatically shut itself off, said Brad Peck, spokesman for the reactor's owner, Energy Northwest. Workers had noticed high pressure readings in the reactor vessel, Peck said, but engineers don't yet know whether that caused the shutdown or was unrelated. The reactor will not restart until engineers find and fix the problem, he said. The shutdown led Energy Northwest to declare an uncommon alert, the second-lowest of four emergency levels. That level notifies emergency response workers of a problem but means there is no safety threat, Peck said. The roughly 125 people working at the plant northeast of Richland, Wash., were not evacuated, he said. Peck and the Oregon Office of Energy both said monitors detected no radiation releases. The nuclear reactor, on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, normally produces 1,157 megawatts of electricity, enough to power a medium-to-large city. Energy Northwest, a joint operating agency of 19 Washington public utilities, sells that power to the Bonneville Power Administration. Spokesman Ed Mosey said the BPA has increased its hydropower generation to make up for the losses. But if the plant remains closed for a while, the BPA might have to purchase more-expensive electricity on the open market.