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NC State says reactor leak poses no public threat

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The university says a leak in its research reactor is not a risk to public health
  • Authorities say they are required to notify authorities if a leak exceeds 350 gallons per hour
  • The NC State facility is leaking at about 10 gallons an hour

(CNN) -- North Carolina State University says a small water leak in the liner of its nuclear research reactor doesn't pose a risk to public health, a university statement said Thursday.

"This is a research reactor and considerably smaller than a commercial power reactor," said Gerry Wicks, the university's reactor health physicist. "Its design significantly limits the possibility that even under the worst circumstances this facility presents any kind of danger."

While the leak has not risen to the level required to make a formal report to federal and state agencies, university officials have informed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the North Carolina Radiation Protection Division and the state Division of Water Quality, the statement said.

Authorities say reactor license specifications require regulatory notification if a water leak exceeds 350 gallons per hour.

"Our facility is leaking at about 10 gallons an hour," the statement added. "Even though this does not present health risks, we want to be on the safe side and make sure the public knows the situation."

Wicks called the leak "virtually invisible."

"It takes special equipment to find and repair it," he added.

The research reactor has been in operation since 1972 and is one of about 20 university-operated reactors across the United States.