Tritium found in water leak at Catawba Nuclear Station

Tritium found in water leak at Catawba Nuclear Station

Tritium found in water leak at Catawba Nuclear Station

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by DON WORTHINGTON / Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on May 15, 2013 at 12:06 PM

LAKE WYLIE, S.C. --  More than 100 gallons of water with traces of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen, has been leaked from a discharge pipe at the Catawba Nuclear Station, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The leak has been classified as a "non emergency event" by the NRC. The leak, however, has the potential to reach groundwater, according to the NRC.

Duke Energy has initiated actions to fix the problem, which happened at 11:23 p.m. Tuesday, according to NRC officials.

Workers at the plant found a leak in a fiberglass discharge pipe from the turbine building sump and are installing a temporary sump pump in the turbine building sump in order to isolate the discharge, according to the NRC.

Friends of the Earth, a environmental watchdog group with offices in Columbia, said Wednesday that Duke Energy needs to clarify how large the leak. The group also said the the leak will necessitate increased monitoring of local wells.

Friends of the Earth also said that Unit 2 at the Catawba plant should be taken out of operation while the leak is investigated and all leaking from the reactor itself, not just from the leaking sump line, is identified and halted.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, drinking water that has tritium can increase the risk of developing cancer. Because tritium emits very low energy radiation and leaves the body relatively quickly, tritium is one of the least dangerous forms of ionizing radiation.

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