Tritium Leak at SC Nuke

Monday, May 20, 2013 @ 07:05 PM gHale

A fiberglass pipe that takes water from a turbine pump to a holding pond at a South Carolina nuclear plant sprung a leak and dropped about 100 gallons of radioactive water.

Water with traces of a radioactive hydrogen isotope leaked at the Catawba Nuclear Station in York County, SC, but the level of tritium in the water is well below limits that would make it dangerous to drink, federal regulators said.

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The leak was Tuesday night in a fiberglass pipe that takes water from a turbine pump to a holding pond, where it undergoes testing before it releases back into Lake Wylie, said officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The level of tritium in the water was also less than half the federal limit for safe drinking water, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.

Duke Energy, which runs the plant, said they contained the leak entirely within the site and took steps to make sure the contaminated water doesn’t reach groundwater. The utility tests groundwater in wells throughout the area regularly and hasn’t seen any cause for alarm, spokeswoman Mary Kathryn Green said.

“We know where water runs on our site. That’s part of the placement of our wells,” Green said.

The leak occurred a half-mile inside the nuclear plant’s property, Duke Energy said.

The utility reported more than 100 gallons of water leaked, but they don’t know the exact amount. It could have been less, but Duke Energy reported it out of an abundance of caution, Green said.

Crews bypassed the pipe and are doing repairs. The nuclear plant continues to operate normally, Green said.

The NRC is monitoring Duke Energy’s response to the leak and will decide after it gathers information about the problem whether there needs to be additional inspections, Hannah said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says drinking water that contains tritium can increase the risk of developing cancer.

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