Small Leak Could Have Escaped Plant

Unit 3 was shut down for a possible leak

Federal regulators say a tiny amount of radiation could have escaped into the atmosphere from a Southern California nuclear power plant after a water leak prompted operators to shut down the reactor.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks says a small amount of radioactive gas "could have" escaped the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northern San Diego Coast.

Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the amount would have been "extremely small" and possibly not detectable by monitors.

The company and federal regulators say the release would not have posed a safety risk for the public.

"Perhaps, a very small amount of radiation leaked into the atmosphere, and if that were the case it's not even showing up on our detection," Alexander said.

A potential leak in a “steam generator tube” prompted a precautionary shutdown of Unit 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on Tuesday evening, according to Southern California Edison (SCE) officials.

Sensors installed in the reactor unit detected a possible leak in one of the unit’s steam generator tubes, according to officials.

“The potential leak poses no imminent danger to the public or plant workers. There has been no release to the atmosphere,” SCE said in a statement Tuesday night.

The small water leak will require a simple repair, maintenance workers said Wednesday morning. 

San Onofre personnel are still investigating the cause of the leak, according to officials. Once the leak is repaired and the investigation is complete, they expect to be able to turn the unit back on.

In the meantime, an official said there is plenty of reserved power available, so power to customers was not expected to be affected.

“Unit 2 is currently offline for a planned maintenance, refueling and technology upgrade outage,” the statement also said.

Unit 2 has been turned off for the last two weeks.

Alexander said they will not know how long it will take to repair the leak, nor when that Unit 3 will be online. He expected it will take a few days.

Copyright NBC San Diego / Associated Press

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