A carbon dioxide leak at the Ascó nuclear power plant (Tarragona) causes one death and three injuries

A worker at the Ascó nuclear power plant ( Tarragona) died and three other employees were injured this Wednesday by a carbon dioxide (Co2) leak that occurred at the facilities. The accident occurred when workers were performing maintenance on the fire system. Among the three injured by gas inhalation, one of them has a serious prognosis, explained sources from the Emergency Medical System (SEM). The Fire Brigade of the Generalitat last night disassociated the accident from nuclear activity.

After receiving the notice a few minutes after seven in the afternoon, the firefighters mobilized seven crews. The chemical risk vehicle of the emergency body also traveled to the place. After securing the area, the operators carried out measurement tasks to analyze the radius of expansion of the carbon dioxide leak. The operators verified that the focus of the accident had been in a four-storey building, far from the atomic energy generation area, so that it did not imply any problem in the operation of the plant or there was a nuclear impact.

The accident originated while workers were recharging fire-fighting system tanks with carbon dioxide. When manipulating a valve, a carbon dioxide leak occurred inside a closed room. It is a gas that acts as a suffocator for flames in the event of a fire, but is potentially suffocating for people. Then, two of the workers were seriously affected by the inhalation of the gas. Finally, one of them died. Two others suffered mild poisoning and the third was more seriously injured. Firefighters searched the area where the leak occurred to rule out that there were more people affected.

Active since 1984

Together with the Vandellós II plant (also located in Tarragona), the nuclear complex produces around 50% of the electrical energy consumed in Catalonia. Two nuclear reactors operate in Ascó. Ascó I has been active since December 1984, while Ascó II became operational in March 1986. Recently, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition extended the operating authorizations to extend its useful cycle until 2030 and 2031, respectively. Unit I was disconnected from the electricity grid last month to start work on its 28th refueling.

This August, the Vandellós II plant, also in the province of Tarragona and which is separated from Ascó by thirty kilometers, suffered an “anomaly” in a pressure transmitter that provides a signal on a remote shutdown panel. The Nuclear Safety Council, the public body that oversees plant safety, decided to raise the incident to level 1 (which defines it as an “anomaly”) on the International Scale of Nuclear Events.