NC State says nuclear reactor leak poses no threat

July 7, 2011 1:00:37 PM PDT
North Carolina State University says a small leak in its nuclear research reactor is not a public health threat.

The reactor is housed in the Burlington Nuclear Engineering Laboratory. The building is located at 2500 Katharine Stinson Drive.

Click here for more about the reactor on the school's website

N.C. State physicist Gerry Wicks said Thursday the reactor is leaking about 10 gallons of water per hour. Facilities are only required to report leaks in excess of 350 gallons an hour.

NC State said the leak was suspected on Friday and confirmed on Saturday. It said the public was not informed sooner because of the low level of danger. The amount of radioactivity was compared to what someone might receive getting an x-ray.

The school says the leak is so small that special equipment is required to detect its location in the reactor's lining. The company that can do that will not be in Raleigh until next week. In the meantime, the leak is being closely monitored. The reactor has been shut down since the leak was discovered.

The reactor operates at a level of about one megawatt, compared to nearly 3,000 megawatts at a typical nuclear power plant. It's one of roughly 20 university-operated reactors in the United States.

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