Small leak found at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Small leak found at Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

A small leak was found in a nuclear reactor at the Palo Verde Power Plant, west of the Valley, last week.

Arizona Public Service spokesman Alan Bunnel said the leak never posed a threat to the community.

"It is radioactive water, but because it's inside the steel and concrete containment dome there was no threat of any radioactive material coming outside into the environment," said Bunnel. "There was no threat to the safety or well being of the public or employees."

The incident has raised new concerns about the impact the government shutdown is having on power plants across the country.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees nuclear power plants across the country, has been forced to send home 93 percent of its workforce.

The NRC currently has about 300 of its 3,900 workers showing up for work. 

"Our full-time inspectors are still on duty at every nuclear plant across the country," said Elliot Brenner, NRC director of public affairs. "There is longer term work not getting done, but we are making certain that we have inspectors at the plants every day."

Brenner said that the small leak at Palo Verde was discovered as a result of NRC-mandated inspections

APS said that federal inspectors were on the job when the small leak was discovered, and it had nothing to do with the government shutdown.

However, Jon Findley with the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter said that just because federal inspectors are still on-site at nuclear power plants across the country does not mean the public is completely safe.

Findley said that with 3,500 NRC employees off the job because of the government shutdown, they're not around if there is a real emergency.

"Their ability to respond to a nuclear incident would absolutely be impaired," said Findley. "I'm sure they have contingency plans, but still, the inspectors you need might be on vacation in Florida."

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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