UPDATE: Entergy confirms death during refueling at Arkansas Nuclear One

By Wayne Barber, Chief News Analyst, GenerationHub

Entergy (NYSE: ETR) confirmed March 31 that a fatal accident occurred over Easter weekend during a refueling outage at Unit 1of the Arkansas Nuclear One (ANO) facility.

The worker was evidently caught beneath a piece of heavy equipment that fell during a planned lift.

The industrial accident at the plant resulted in the death of one employee and injuries to eight others. The injured employees were transported to a local hospital. Six employees were treated and released. Two remain hospitalized for their injuries.

When contacted early April 1, an Entergy spokesperson could not immediately reveal whether the workers involved were employees of Entergy or a contractor.

The plant informed NRC of the accident, which was deemed an “unusual event.” An unusual event is the lowest of four emergency classifications designated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Plant equipment was also damaged. Entergy exited the unusual event at 6:21 p.m. on March 31.

The plant entered the notification of unusual event due to damage to a breaker cubicle related to the accident in the plant. The notification of unusual event was exited after corrective actions were completed to stabilize power supplies and the plant no longer met the emergency action level criteria. Both units of ANO are in a stable shutdown condition. Power to Unit 1 is being supplied by emergency diesel generators. Power to Unit 2 is being provided by emergency diesel generators and off site power.  There was no radiological release and no impact on public health and safety.

The emergency response organization remains staffed in order to provide oversight in support of ongoing plant repairs, Entergy reported.

Authorities are investigating the accident. ANO Units 1 and 2 are pressurized water reactors (PWRs) located in Russellville, Ark. Unit 1 is listed with a generating capacity of about 900 MW.

Such accidents appear rare at nuclear plants

Arkansas Nuclear One had no lost-time accidents in 2012, a spokesperson said.

It is believed that serious occupational accidents at U.S. nuclear plants are very rare. When contacted early April 1, a Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) spokesperson could not immediately remember when the last fatal accident might have occurred at a domestic nuclear plant. NEI does not track such events, he said.

An NRC spokesperson said he could not immediately recall any fatal accidents at U.S. nuclear plants in recent years.

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) Nuclear Safety Project Director Dave Lochbaum believes the last recorded accidental death at U.S. nuclear plant property occurred in 1992.

One of the more serious power plant accidents at a non-nuclear facility in recent years occurred at a natural gas power plant in Connecticut in February 2010. During testing of a nearly-complete Kleen Energy Systems power plant, an explosion occurred that claimed the lives of six people and injured others.

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