Inspector discovers new water leak at Palisades nuclear plant

Sep 26, 2012

Documents released this week show a Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector based at Palisades discovered the leak during a routine inspection on September 20th.  

Palisades is under more scrutiny this year after a series of problems earned it one of the worst safety ratings in the country. This is at least the third water leak (depending on exactly how you tally them) at the nuclear plant this year. You can find more details about the first leak from a large water tank above the control room here, and the second water leak from the actual reactor here.

Palisades sits right next to Lake Michigan near South Haven. It uses water from the lake to help cool equipment.

This new leak is from a valve on a pipe that funnels that Lake Michigan water back into to the lake. The water is leaking from that valve into a secondary building at the plant. Right now the leak is about a cup and half an hour. The water is not radioactive.

“(The pipe) can still do what it was designed to do,” NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said. “Eventually this valve, it needs to be fixed, but it is not an immediate safety concern.”

But this is just the latest water leak; Palisades shut down twice this year to fix two other separate water leaks. So how many leaks is too many?

“We are asking ourselves that question but in a different way, which is; why is this happening? Is there a common thread that we need to look at?” Mitlyng said.

A Palisades spokesman says they’ve determined where the leak is coming from. He says the company may repair the “through-wall, pinhole leak”, replace the valve, or change the system of pipes to bypass the valve altogether. It’s unclear when that fix will happen.

Mitlyng says this is a good example of how regular NRC inspections do identify issues of concern.