April 8, 2011 / 8:49 PM / in 7 years

Washington state nuclear plant briefly evacuated

SEATTLE, April 8 (Reuters) - Washington state’s only nuclear power plant briefly evacuated about 25 workers after a small amount of hydrogen sprang from a pipe and ignited in a six-inch (15.5 cm) flash, plant officials said on Friday.

The incident at the Columbia Generating Station late on Thursday afternoon resulted in no injuries or equipment damage, they said. Workers are now back.

“It was like a little flash, like what you would see when lighting a barbecue,” said Rochelle Olson, spokeswoman for the plant which is operated by Energy Northwest.

The nuclear reactor at the plant was shut down at the time for routine maintenance and refueling.

The plant, in Richland, Washington, about 210 miles (338 km) southeast of Seattle, said the incident occurred in the main turbine building.

Workers were cutting a pipe after closing and purging it, when a small amount of residual trapped hydrogen gas was released and ignited, officials said in a statement, describing the release as a “less-than-one-second puff.”

“It’s such a minor event that it wouldn’t be reported in any other industry,” Olson added. (Reporting by Laura L. Myers; editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Chris Michaud)

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