updated 10/5/2006 9:46:42 AM ET 2006-10-05T13:46:42

Tritium-laced water leaks from U.S. nuclear power plants in the past decade caused no health risks to the public, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a report issued Wednesday.

Tritium is a weak radioactive isotope of hydrogen.

“We looked at a wide range of releases that go back to 1996, and even included a substantial release from the Hatch plant in 1986, and none of these events led to appreciable radiation doses to people outside the plants,” said Stuart Richards, the NRC senior manager who led the task force. “There are, however, areas of our regulations that could better cover these sorts of inadvertent spills and leaks.”

The Hatch nuclear power plant is in Georgia.

This year alone tritium has been found at nuclear reactor sites in Illinois, California, Arizona, Wisconsin and Missouri.

The NRC made 26 recommendations in its report including that nuclear plant operators tell local and state officials of radioactive leaks even if they are not large enough to require reporting to the NRC.

The NRC regulates all radioactive releases from nuclear power plants.

Small amounts of tritium occur naturally in most surface water. A nuclear reactor, however, produces higher concentrations of tritium in water.

The Hatch incident occurred in Georgia and was included the study because it was a “clear case of operator error” and the size of the leak in a 1986 incident, said Scott Burnell, spokesman with the NRC.

An operator lowered a barrier and allowed 141,500 gallons to spill from the spent fuel pool at Hatch.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.


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