San Onofre Radiation Leak 'Harmless'
An investigation into small amounts of radiation released into the atmosphere at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station has revealed unusual wear on dozens of tubes carrying radioactive water at the Unit two nuclear plant.
Alarms alerted station personnel there was a radioactive leak in one of the tubes around 6 p.m. Tuesday. Shortly after, the power plant, located just north of San Diego, shut down. The plant, which has been closed for the past two days, will remain offline for inspections and repairs.
The faulty tubing was relatively brand new and had been recently replaced in both units of the power plant. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Spokesperson Victor Dricks said this type of damage was unusual for new tubing.
Although the leak was not large enough to require the plant to go into a state of emergency, any emission of radiation into the atmosphere was worth investigating.
According to the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station twitter, “SONGS Operators safely shut down & isolated the component that contained the leaking tube within four hours of detecting the indications.”
However, Southern California Edison was slow to announce the news of the leak at one of its plants. Shortly after the incident, SCE issued a statement saying, “There has been no release to the atmosphere.”
Dricks contradicted the statement Wednesday morning revealing that a small amount of radioactive gas “could have” escaped from a building that houses auxiliary equipment.
The company has not always been transparent about discussing the problems at their plants, according to Daniel Hirsch, who lectures on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Edison has historically not been candid about the problems at San Onofre,” Hirsch said. “That lack of transparency causes tremendous distrust and increases risk.”
Since the communication mishap, SONGS has released the opinion of NEI Nuclear Notes, a blog about “News and commentary on the commercial nuclear industry,” that stated SCE is not to blame in the incident, and that it is actually quite common.
“It just happens,” said David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists to Voice of OC, a Southern California Newspaper. This statement was later reposted on NEI, and then released on the San Onofre station’s website.