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FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant experiences leak within facility

Nuclear Regulatory Commission
FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant

Staff at the FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego County powered down the facility last weekend in response to an internal leak.

FitzPatrick spokesperson Tammy Holden says they recently discovered a defect in a few of the plant's more than 30,000 fuel rods - long, thin metal tubes that contain uranium. They're located within the reactor's core and help produce power. The issue was higher than normal radioactive contamination in the water that the fuel rods heat to produce steam.

Credit U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Fuel rods are located in a nuclear power plant's reactor core and help produce energy by boiling water that spins the facility's turbines.

Neil Sheehan with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it's not a novel thing to happen at a nuclear power plant.

"There’s always a certain amount of radioactive contamination just by virtue of the fact that you have all of this nuclear fuel and water flowing through at high rates,” Sheehan said. “They don’t want to see excess radioactive contamination."

But Sheehan says because that water is part of a closed loop that remains in the FitzPatrick plant, there shouldn't be any danger to the surrounding community.

"It is not escaping into the environment,” He said. “And they also have filtering, demineralizing systems that are constantly working  to clean up that water, so as far as the public's concern this should have no impact on them."

Holden says they have suppressed the leak and they plan to replace the affected fuel rods when the plant undergoes its next refueling. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.