Oyster Creek removes pipe, plugs tritium leak
August 27, 2009
By BEN LEACH Staff Writer
An aluminum pipe that was leaking tritium at the Oyster Creek Generating Station in Lacey Township, New Jersey, has been removed and the leak has been stopped.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission confirmed Thursday that a 25-foot-long portion of pipe was removed and will be studied by a laboratory to see what could have caused the leak.
Oyster Creek, the nation's oldest continuously operating nuclear power plant, was running at about 50 percent of its power capacity as of Thursday, according to David Benson, a spokesman for the plant. The plant has not shut down during the repairs.
"(Reducing the power) is the best thing to do to have safe access into that building," Benson said.
The plant's engineers were able to make a series of temporary repairs so the plant would not need to shut down completely. However, the aluminum pipeline, which is used to transport water from condensation, needs to work properly in order for the plant to continue to generate electricity.
"No rate of leaking from that line was acceptable for the plant to remain active," said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the NRC.
Water was leaking from the pipe at a rate of about 5 gallons per minute. Samples revealed the leaking water contained tritium, a naturally occurring radioactive form of hydrogen. Tritium also was found in a leak identified by the plant in April.
The tritium levels in samples taken were 10 million picocuries per liter of water, higher than the 5 million to 6 million picocuries per liter identified in the leak found in April, Benson said. Anything more than 20,000 picocuries per liter is considered unsafe for drinking water.
Sheehan said the level of tritium is about what the NRC would expect to see in water contained in a condensate storage tank.
There is no threat to public or employee safety, Benson and the NRC said. The tritium has not spread into any public water supplies and is contained on the site, Benson said.
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