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"Unusual event" at U.S. nuclear plant not threat to public: official

(Xinhua)

08:01, January 31, 2012

CHICAGO, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- U.S. officials said Monday that there is no threat to the public as an "unusual event"occurred at the Exelon nuclear power plant in Byron, Illinois when the facility lost outside power, though diesel generators continue to supply the plant with backup energy.

According to Exelon, outside power to the Byron plant was lost and Unit 2 came offline, prompting diesel generators to activate and provide power to the facility while safety mechanisms reduced steam pressure through the release of valves.

The steam being released has the "expected levels" of Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen with weak levels of radioactivity, but according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) the steam release was part of the cooling process and was not of high concern.

"The steam release does not present a threat to the public," the NRC said in a statement, confirming Exelon's report that there had been no health or safety impact to individuals from the development.

The NRC said it will continue to monitor the situation and has officially classified the Byron incident as an "unusual event," the lowest on the NRC's four levels of nuclear emergency classifications.

Currently, Exelon says one of the two nuclear units has been automatically shut down and is stable, while the other is operating at full power. Station engineering experts will continue to investigate the cause of the offsite power loss, which remains unknown.

The Byron plant is located about 100 miles west of Chicago, the city which is also the company headquarters of Exelon Corp.

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