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Radioactive Leak At San Onofre Nuclear Plant
08-19-2006, 07:16 AM,
Radioactive Leak At San Onofre Nuclear Plant

SAN ONOFRE, August 18, 2006 - A retired reactor at the San Onofre nuclear power plant has leaked several thousand gallons of radioactive water over an unknown period of time, but there is no threat to public safety, it was reported.

An operator at the plant confirmed Tuesday that the water containing tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear fission that produces electricity, has leaked from the reactor, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. High levels of tritium can cause cancer or birth defects.
The concentration of tritium found in groundwater beneath the retired reactor was higher than standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water.

But initial tests showed it was lower than the maximum annual leakage permitted for nuclear power plants by the the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"There is no danger to public safety," Victor Dricks, the commission's spokesman said.

Crews demolishing the retired reactor discovered the leak last week, and the commission was notified Monday, according to the Union-Tribune.

The leak might have started decades ago, said Ray Golden, a spokesman for the nuclear facility. He emphasized, however, that the nearest well for drinking water is two miles uphill at Camp Pendleton.

Golden added that if the tritium washes into the ocean, it would be diluted to levels safe for surfers, swimmers and marine life. The power plant is 100 to 200 yards from San Onofre Beach.

If more tests confirm that the concentration of leaked tritium meets the commission's standards, San Onofre officials said, they will release the contaminated water 1 1/2 miles offshore, according to the newspaper.

San Onofre officials said they are investigating the origin of the tritium.

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