Ill. nuclear reactor loses power, venting steam [View all]
(01-30) 15:20 PST Byron, Ill. (AP) --
A nuclear reactor at a northern Illinois plant shut down Monday after losing power, and steam was being vented to reduce pressure, according to officials from Exelon Nuclear and federal regulators.
Unit 2 at Byron Generating Station shut down around 10:18 a.m., after losing power from an off-site source, Exelon officials said. Diesel generators began supplying power to the plant equipment and operators began releasing steam from the non-nuclear side of the plant to help cool the reactor, officials said.
Even though the turbine is not turning to produce electricity, "you still need to cool the equipment." said U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng. Releasing steam helps "take away some of that energy still being produced by nuclear reaction but that doesn't have anywhere to go now."
The steam contains low levels of radioactive tritium, but the levels are safe for workers and the public, federal and plant officials said.