An ammonia leak in a water-treatment system at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station prompted an alert and partial evacuation at the facility Tuesday, but utility officials insisted there was never any threat to the public.
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The emergency notification went into effect at the San Clemente-area plant at about 3 p.m., just after the problem was detected, according to Southern California Edison, majority owner of the station. No radioactive material was released, and no injuries were reported, officials said.
"As a precaution, the company evacuated employees in the area near where the leak was found," according to an SCE statement. "Other employees remain in other areas of the plant. There's no immediate danger to the public. Those units are operating normally."
The roughly 25-gallon leak had been contained by early evening, and the alert was lifted shortly after 6 p.m., according to the utility company.
The chemical compound escaped in a non-nuclear section of the plant, officials said. The safety alert was necessary because the resulting fumes could have prevented access to the facility, according to Edison.
"The control room is staffed and fully operational, and the plant is under 100 percent power," the utility asserted in a statement.
For their part, San Diego County officials responded to the alert by activating and staffing their Operational Area Emergency Operations Center, in order to "be prepared should the situation at the power plant deteriorate."
"All resources and support personnel have been identified and are on stand-by, ready to be mobilized if needed," according to a county announcement.
Updates were made available via a public information telephone hotline, reached by dialing 211.
In accordance with pre-existing emergency plans, appropriate federal, state and local agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, were notified about the accident, according to Edison.
An alert is the second-lowest of four federal classifications for emergencies at commercial nuclear power stations. It is triggered by events involving an actual or potential impact on the level of safety of a plant.
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