Illinois’ LaSalle nuclear power plant reported that operators received a fire alarm from the Unit 2 Reactor Building at 7:57 yesterday morning. A fire team was dispatched and confirmed at 8:17 that there was no fire. However, LaSalle’s license requires a confirmation that a fire has not taken place within 15 minutes of the initial alarm. Because it took 20 minutes to confirm that there was no fire, operators had to file a Notice of Unusual Event (NOUE.)
At 9:17, LaSalle’s Shift Emergency Director terminated the Unusual Event. The plant’s maintenance department has begun efforts to locate and replace faulted detector or other degraded component.
The trouble with unplanned events is that they occur without notice. If there’s an earthquake or an explosion or a false fire alarm, your emergency response team must be ready to go on a moment’s notice. Doesn’t matter if they’re on a coffee break or if someone has misplaced his flashlight.
Missing a regulatory guideline by five minutes may not seem like a big deal. But the license is the license is the license. Had there been a fire in the Reactor Building, five minutes could have been the difference between extinguishing the blaze before it spread and the kind of damage that occurred at Browns Ferry in March 1975, when a single candle, being used to check air draft around a cable repair caused a fire that spread to the reactor building.