Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A chemical leak at Westinghouse's Nuclear Fuel Plant in Columbia raised concerns about potential harm to drinking water.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a report on July 23 documenting the recent chemical spill.
Radioactive uranium leaked into a 3-inch hole in the floor of their Nuclear Fuel Plant and seeped 6-feet into the soil.
According to the NRC report, the spill took place on July 10 and Westinghouse immediately notified South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
THe NRC classified the leak as a non-emergency, because the chemical did not migrate offsite and there were no potential effects to people nearby. They also explained that the leak didn't pose a danger to the surrounding community.
However, Tom Clements with Friends of the Earth says there are still a lot of questions left unanswered.
"They don't say how long this has been leaking, there's no report of the volume," says Clements. "As of right now there is no update from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the Westinghouse fuel plant as to how much material may have leaked out."
The NRC is awaiting groundwater tests.
"Anytime there is leaking chemicals or uranium, there's a problem," says Clements. "At least the NRC did post something publicly on July 23, but I do think Westinghouse and DHEC need to step forward and explain what's going and how this is being corrected and if there will be any remediation necessary of uranium and fluoride contaminated soil."
Westinghouse released this statement about the event saying:
"The recently reported leak of uranium and fluoride at the Westinghouse Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility occurred via a small hole in the polypropylene liner covering the concrete containment area associated with the spiking station. (The spiking station is a chemical process used in the manufacturing of nuclear fuel.) This is a localized issue underneath the floor of the existing structure and well within the boundaries of the site.
The location remains removed from service while the event is being fully investigated. Our maintenance department has placed a metal plate over the small hole. Monitoring of the closest downgradient well has been and will continue to be performed to ensure water quality. Based on the investigation results, modifications to repair the equipment and prevent recurrence of another event will be completed prior to the station’s return to service. Additional actions may also be completed once the investigation is complete.”
The plant uses uranium to make the fuel rods for commercial nuclear reactors.