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San Onofre worker falls into reactor pool at nuclear plant

Jason Hickey/Flickr Creative Commons

A veteran worker lost his balance at the San Onofre nuclear plant last week and fell into the Unit 2 reactor pool while trying to retrieve a flashlight. The pool, more than 20 feet deep, contains water that continually circulates through the reactor core.

The worker did not suffer significant radiation exposure in the incident, and was "wearing all of the appropriate safety equipment, including a life preserver vest," said Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander told the L.A. Times.

Highly radioactive uranium fuel normally sits at the bottom of the pool, but it had been removed by workers, according to officials. Stray fuel particles may have been floating in the water and could have been swallowed. They would have been the most likely source of radiation, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Victor Dricks.

Dricks said the Jan 27. event did not appear on a regular list of incidents because it was not a reportable accident under federal rules about radiation doses, notes the North County Times.

This is the third story about the San Diego County plant in about as many days.

The reactor was shut down earlier this week when a small radiation leak was detected. It was unknown how much radiation may have escaped into the atmosphere, but officials and regulators stated at the time there was no public safety concern.

The NRC also revealed that an inspection of a steam generator showed "unusual" wear on more than 800 tubes pumping radioactive water.