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Toxic Leak Discovered Near Nuclear Plant

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
February 16, 2004

A leak of highly toxic hydrazine from a delivery truck outside Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant prevented 1,100 employees from leaving the building, and an additional 75 people were stuck on a nearby beach, authorities said.

The leak was discovered around noon during an inspection of a truck delivering the hydrazine solution to Diablo Canyon from a Unavar USA distribution center.

Employees at the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. plant who were scheduled to end their shift at 4:30 pm were told they could not leave, as were other people at nearby Port San Luis, said Mike Cole, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The CDF"s hazardous -materials team arrived at the plant near Avilla Beach, 150 miles southwest of Fresno.

The hydrazine had evaporated by 4:30 pm and officials believed the leak would be cleaned up by late evening. PG&E made plans to serve dinner to its employees at the plant.

Inspectors found 10 to 15 gallons of the hydrazine- an anticorrosive used in the plant's boiler system, had escaped through a gasket and pooled atop a stainless steel container, said Dwight Landry, vice president of operations for the Kirkland, Washington based Univar.

He said the 5-foot-high container was enclosed in a trailer.

"There is no danger to the public. It is contained," Landry said.

Although pure hydrazine is used as rocket fuel, the 35% hydrazine solution was not flammable, but could be fatal if inhaled, swallowed or absorbed through the skin, Cole said.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Lewis said the plant's security measures led to discovery of the leak.