Fire shuts down Callaway nuclear plant, no danger to public after Friday night incident

This March 2012 photo shows the nuclear plant at the Callaway Energy Center, about 10 miles southeast of Fulton.
This March 2012 photo shows the nuclear plant at the Callaway Energy Center, about 10 miles southeast of Fulton.

The in-house fire brigade quickly contained and extinguished a small fire at the nuclear power plant just outside Fulton late Friday night, according to officials.

At 11:49 p.m. Friday, Ameren Missouri Callaway Energy Center declared an "Unusual Event" due to a small fire in the turbine building, a press release from Ameren Missouri electric company stated.

"At no time did the situation threaten the public or nearby communities. No one was injured," the press release stated.

Barry Cox, senior director of nuclear operations for the Callaway Energy Center, told the Fulton Sun there is a fire brigade on duty 24 hours per day, seven days per week and was able to put out the fire.

"No off-site assistance was required," Cox said.

Though the turbine building is located in a non-nuclear part of the plant near Fulton, the facility was shut down as part of the multiple safety layers.

"Our first priority was stabilizing the nuclear plant ... everything operated per design," Cox said.

He said the fire was minimal - just inside a small room in the turbine building and outside near auxiliary transformers.

Ameren Missouri and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have started an investigation.

The term "Unusual Event" was established by the NRC to describe a relatively minor occurrence at a nuclear power plant that could reduce the overall level of safety. During such an event, no public action is advised or necessary. It is the least significant of four emergency classifications established by the NRC. The other categories, in order of severity, are "Alert," "Site Area Emergency" and "General Emergency," according to the press release.

There was no release of radioactivity to the environment above normal operating limits, the press release stated, and all appropriate federal, state and local agencies have been notified. An assessment is underway to determine when Callaway can return to service. Cox said crews were on site Saturday afternoon to survey the damage and determine a cause. He did not know when a cause would be determined nor when the plant would return to service and could not estimate when that knowledge would be available.

The Callaway Energy Center generates about 20 percent of the electricity supplied to Ameren Missouri's 1.2 million customers, according to the press release. While out of service, the energy it produces will be replaced by other Ameren Missouri energy centers.