As if we didn’t have enough going on in the world, it seems radioactive uranium has managed to leak through a hole in the floor at a nuclear fuel factory in South Carolina. This whole ordeal has done some damage and could mean more than we realize.
According to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, this uranium leak seeped through an at least three inches wide and six-foot-deep hole and polluted the soil beneath the plant itself. While we do not know yet whether or not this toxic substance has managed to leach into the groundwater in the area, it is something that is being looked into and could be a real threat. The commission didn’t learn about the presence of the leak until July 12th and currently, we don’t know how long it has been leaking.
The hole itself was found while workers were making repairs to a liner and the hole is now currently covered with a metal plate and until repaired machinery in regards is not operational. Uranium levels in the soil beneath the plant has reached 4,000 parts per million which is over 1,000 times higher than the amount of uranium we would normally find within other soils. This is terrifying and most people do not understand just what kind of impact it could have.
The State reported as follows in regards:
Tom Clements, an anti-nuclear activist who tracks issues at the Westinghouse plant, said government agencies need to explain how long the contamination went on and how much radiation has been released. The Westinghouse plant is several miles from Congaree National Park, a vast floodplain wetland renowned for its sparkling water and tall trees.
“It’s a pretty big concern if you have an unknown quantity of material containing uranium leaching into the groundwater,’’ Clements said.
Elevated levels of uranium in drinking water can increase a person’s risk of kidney damage, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over a lifetime, exposure to uranium also can increase a person’s risk of cancer, the agency says.
Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the NRC in Atlanta, said it does not appear the uranium has spread off the site, calling the contamination “very localized.’’ But he said the agency is investigating to learn more about what happened.
The recent uranium leak is the latest in a series of troubles at the plant.
Two years ago, Westinghouse had to shut down part of the plant after uranium built up in an air-pollution device. In 2017, a toxic solution sprayed a worker, forcing him to take decontamination measures. This year, the NRC cited Westinghouse for failing to ensure proper procedures were in place to limit a burst of radiation from occurring.
The company has pledged to do better, bringing in new management.
Westinghouse, which employs about 1,000 workers at the facility, also has had troubles with groundwater pollution at the site for three decades.
While we do not know much at the moment as more comes to light we can only hope this issue is one that can be managed properly. Things like this do happen but we should be doing more to ensure that they don’t.
Image via Perplex