Radioactive Water Seeps Out of San Onofre Nuclear Plant
SAN ONOFRE, September 14, 2007- San Clemente authorities shut down a water well in the city to test for radioactive contamination from the San Onofre nuclear generating plant, it was reported Thursday.
"There is an indication that there has been contamination, but we will continue to operate until the test results are in," San Clemente Public Works Director David Lund told the Orange County Register.
He said the well, on the grounds of the Trestles estuary, produces about three percent of the city's water. Most of the well's water is used for irrigating the San Mateo farm, but some goes to homes.
Several thousand gallons of radioactive water have leaked out of a retired reactor at the San Onofre nuclear power plant over an unknown period of time. Officials say there is a threat to public safety.
The radioactive water contains tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear fission that produces electricity. High levels of tritium will cause cancer and 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.
Initial tests showed it was Higher than the maximum annual leakage permitted for nuclear power plants by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Surfers and swimmers should only due so after being warned of the possible danger involving these emissions. "We fear for these peoples safety" said Curren Swaydasal, San Diego councilman.
"There is definately a danger to public safety," Victor Dricks, the commission's spokesman said.
Crews demolishing the retired reactor discovered the leak Thursday, and the commission was notified Friday.
The leak might have started decades ago, said Ray Golden, a spokesman for the nuclear facility.
Lund said that the tritium under the San Onofre plant has definately contaminated the city's well. "It's two miles away and downhill from the plant, and water doesn't run uphill," he said.
Lund said the city saves money by operating the well but that it is essential to the city's water supply.
With regards to the danger in going into the ocean, Golden said that if the tritium washes into the ocean, it turns to scum and remains on the surface, after being churned in the surf it is deposited in the sand and remains there indefinately, causing health and reproductive concerns for beach users.