San Onofre Reactor Off-Line for Leak Investigation

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station personnel are investigating the cause of Tuesday's leak

By Jonathan Lloyd
|  Wednesday, Feb 1, 2012  |  Updated 6:33 PM PDT
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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.

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.

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Nuclear Reactor Shut Down After Leak

A reactor at San Onofre Nuclear power plant was shut down Tuesday night after sensors reported a radioactive leak.
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An "extremely small" amount of radiation could have escaped from of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Diego after a water leak prompted operators to shut down the reactor, according to officials.

"It would have been very, very small, low level, which would not pose a danger to anyone,'' said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks.

Alarms alerted station personnel to the leak at the power plant at about 6 p.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Because the building into which the gas leaked is not airtight, it is possible that a small amount of radioactivity escaped into the environment, Dricks said. But he said the levels would likely be immeasurable against existing levels in the atmosphere.

The amount of radiation leaked from the steam-generator tube would have been "extremely small" and possibly not detectable by monitors, a spokesman for SoCal Edison told the Associated Press Wednesday.

The leak occurred in the part of the facility, located off the I-5 just south of San Clemente, which houses thousands of tubes carrying radioactive water, officials said.

There are radiation detectors throughout the plant and none measured any amount of radioactivity, said Gil Alexander, spokesman for Southern California Edison, which operates the facility.

The investigation into what caused Tuesday's leak continued Wednesday afternoon. An evacuation was not required.

Officials are waiting for the reactor to cool before crews can be sent in to analyze and fix the leak, which will likely be Thursday.

Once the problem is resolved, the will likely take several days for the reactor to be restarted, officials said.

This was not the first time a leak-scare has occurred at the San Onofre plant. In November, a level 1 alert was issued at the plants but the appropriate alarms did not go off.

Residents' reactions to the latest leak ran the gammut Wednesday. Some long-time residents said they trust the plant is being operated safely while others are worried of the leak's possible effects.

Two reactors at the Rosemead-based utility are currently down because at the time of the accident, the other reactor was turned off for maintenance, SCE officials said.

The facility has switched reserve power to make up for any losses caused by the shutdowns, SCE officials said.

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