| CHARLESTON, S.C.
CHARLESTON, S.C. May 15 More than 100 gallons
of water containing radioactive tritium has leaked from a
discharge pipe at the Catawba Nuclear Station near Lake Wylie,
South Carolina, and could reach groundwater, the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission said on Wednesday.
The leak, which was found Tuesday night in a fiberglass
discharge pipe from the turbine building sump pump, occurred
about a half-mile inside the station's grounds, said officials
at Duke Energy Corp, the plant's operator.
Although the leak has the potential to reach groundwater,
samples indicated a small concentration of tritium, officials
"If you do the calculations on that amount of tritium, it's
less than half of the Environmental Protection Agency's drinking
water standard," said Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission's regional office in Atlanta.
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. A byproduct of
nuclear reactor operations, tritium also occurs naturally in air
"This radiological dose of tritium is equal to about
one-fifth of a chest X-ray or a cross-country flight," said Duke
spokesman Scott Andresen. "It must be drunk in large quantities
to pose any health risk."
Water has stopped flowing through the pipe and the spilled
water contained no radioactive isotopes other than tritium,
Andresen said. He said it would be some time before officials
know exactly how much water was spilled because they must
determine the flow, test pump logs and test soil around the
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing
cancer. But because it emits very low energy radiation and
leaves the body relatively quickly, it is one of the least
Duke, the largest electric power holding company in the
United States with more than $110 billion in total assets,
serves about 7.2 million electric customers in six states in the
Southeast and Midwest.