By Ryan Randazzo for The Arizona Republic
A tiny leak inside the Unit 3 reactor at Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station could delay reopening of the unit as long as 30 days and cost Arizona Public Service Co. and the other plant owners $10M to $15M to repair, officials said.
The leak released a small but unknown amount of radioactive water inside the concrete containment dome over the reactor, but not to the outside environment. The leak has not threatened any of the plant’s nearly 3K workers, officials said.
The leak was discovered by remote cameras after the unit was shut down Oct. 5 for scheduled refueling. Each of the three reactors 50 miles west of Phoenix is powered down every 18 months to replace about one-third of the fuel inside and to conduct scheduled maintenance.
The leak is on the bottom of the reactor vessel, where water is heated by the uranium fuel. No water was present, but a white residue indicating boric acid, which is used in the water, hinted that a leak occurred.
“Think about taking your car in to the mechanic on its 50K mile check up, that’s what we do,” said Bob Bement, senior vice president of site operations at Palo Verde. “We go under the hood and look at everything and make sure it is set up for long term operation.”
In addition to the repair, Palo Verde has been adding about $100M in upgrades to all three reactors to make them more resilient to large-scale disasters such as the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan.
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