Officials: Radiation could have escaped nuke plant

MICHAEL R. BLOOD Associated Press Published:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- 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 as a precaution, officials said Wednesday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks said radioactive gas "could have" escaped the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northern San Diego coast.

Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander told The Associated Press the amount would have been "extremely small" and possibly not detectable by monitors.

The company and federal regulators say the release would not have posed a safety risk for the public.

"It would have been very, very small, low level, which would not pose a danger to anyone," Dricks said.

The leak occurred in equipment that was installed in the plant in the fall of 2010. The leak occurred in one of thousands of tubes that carry radioactive water from the Unit 3 reactor.

However, the company has found damage to other tubes, Dricks said.

"The damage that they have found to many other tubes is unusual, and they are attempting to identify the reason," Dricks said.

Alexander said he could not confirm any additional damage, pending an inspection of the equipment.

The plant is owned by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside. Southern California Edison serves nearly 14 million residents with electricity in Central and Southern California.

The San Onofre plant is about 45 miles north of San Diego.

The NRC is evaluating the plant's response to the leak, Dricks said.