A spill of radioactive water at the Oconee Nuclear Station has prompted concerns among environmentalists about the condition of aging nuclear plants — though government regulators and the plant’s operator say the incident was minor and posed no threat to the public’s drinking water.
Duke Energy told The Greenville News on Thursday that the company is conducting “an aggressive ongoing investigation” to determine the source of the seepage that occurred a day earlier.
Duke reported the leak in an area where water was being transferred between two chemical ponds on the site of the station’s three reactors, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a notice issued Thursday.
The spill held the potential of seeping into groundwater, though the leak was confined to the site, the NRC said.
Tritium is a weakly active hydrogen isotope found both naturally and in the production of nuclear power, and Oconee periodically releases diluted amounts of tritium into the waterway just below the Lake Keowee dam, which ultimately flows into Lake Hartwell.
The dose of tritium measured in Wednesday’s spill — which Duke would only say involved more than 100 gallons of water — was “less than a quarter” of the amount of radioactive material allowed under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for safe drinking water, the NRC said.
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