A worker fell into a reactor pool at San Onofre nuclear power plant last week. (Photo: RT News)
Workplace accident: A worker at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station fell into a reactor pool last week, Southern California Edison officials said Friday.
The incident occurred just a few days before the power plant was shut down due to a leak in one of the reactors.
• A contract worker at the San Onofre nuclear power plant fell into a reactor pool full of water that circulates through the nuclear reactor core.
• Co-workers pulled him to safety. He was decontaminated and tested for radiation.
• Officials said the worker was not exposed to a dangerous dose of radiation.
The worker, who is not a plant employee but works for a private contractor, was assigned to replace the vessel head in the nuclear power plant’s Unit 2 reactor pool, officials told the North County Times.
Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said the worker, whose name was not released, had leaned over to pick up a flashlight when he “momentarily lost his balance” and fell into the pool on January 27.
“He was wearing all of the appropriate safety equipment, including a life preserver vest,” Alexander said.
The water inside the reactor pool is 23-foot-deep. It circulates through the nuclear reactor core. Co-workers pulled the victim to safety, according to a CBS News report.
The highly radioactive uranium fuel that normally sits at the bottom of the pool had been removed earlier, but stray fuel particles could have been floating in the water, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesman Victor Dricks said.
The victim was decontaminated and then tested to determine if he may have swallowed any of the radioactive particles. These initial tests showed no significant radiation exposure, Alexander said.
Alexander said the tests showed that the worker received 5 millirem of radiation as a result of the fall. That is 1 millirem more than the exposure from a chest X-ray, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Federal government safety rules for nuclear workers limit exposure to less than 5,000 millirems per year .
The worker who fell into the reactor pool was back on the job the same day, Alexander said. Edison officials continued to monitor him for several days but said there were no signs of a harmful dose of radiation.
One reactor at the San Onofre plant was shut down Tuesday night after radioactive gas escaped from a pipe in a building located next to the reactor. A second reactor was shut down for maintenance.
Nuclear regulation officials said Thursday that extensive wear had been found on relatively news tubes inside a unit at the San Onofre nuclear plant, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times. Officials don’t yet know what it causing the so much wear on the tubes.
Environmental safety groups say problems with the aging plant point to the need to shift to clean-energy alternatives like energy efficiency and renewable power.
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