Local News

Minor water leak reported at NC State's nuclear reactor

Posted July 7, 2011

— North Carolina State University officials said Thursday that there is a low-level water leak in the liner that surrounds the campus nuclear reactor, but that it poses no danger to the public.

University spokesman Keith Nichols described the leak, discovered Saturday, as the size of a pinhead and that it was leaking about 10 gallons per hour from the 15,000-gallon tank.

“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."

Nichols said it would be considered a public threat if the reactor were leaking at 350 gallons per hour.

The university is in the process of repairing the leak and has notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, North Carolina Radiation Protection Division and North Carolina Division of Water Quality about it, Nichols said.

The reactor has been in operation at N.C. State since 1972 and is one of about 20 university-operated reactors in the country. It is in operation about 1,000 hours annually for nuclear research, the school said.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspected the reactor in February and found no significant issues.


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  • scifion Jul 8, 2011

    My earlier attempt to comment was moderated out for calling out people to support their positions on eliminating nuclear energy production and research. Apparently WRAL mods don't mind dissemination of unsupported, vague, and largely ignorant opinions in the GOLO section, and that rubs my fur the wrong way as a scientist and seeker of facts. So instead I'll conform to apparent policy and make a layperson's observation that nuclear research and energy provide large-scale energy production with a small carbon footprint and excellent safety record, and played a significant part in diagnosing and curing my father's cancer. Understanding and carefully applying the energy of unstable nuclei is an important part of the present and future.

  • myjudas Jul 8, 2011

    I have a feeling most of the people who are freaked out have never been in the building. Our reactor is *tiny.* A total meltdown wouldn't even be -that- big a of a deal.

  • beckerunc Jul 8, 2011

    "Minor" leak at a nuclear reactor ???

  • caryzoo Jul 7, 2011

    Anything nuclear is a big deal... stop them please.

  • djofraleigh Jul 7, 2011

    at least they told us about it

  • Bill Brasky Jul 7, 2011


    Here is the story from a few months ago:


  • paginasecunda Jul 7, 2011

    RB - "cwood - "This is far less of an issue than the nuclear bomb buried in Northern Wayne Co. since a B-52 went down in the early 60s!! Yup-there was one bomb never found-maybe their carrots are 6' long and glow in the dark."


    Yes, nuclear. It was the subject of an article several months ago. I believe that it was plutonium, which even though it is not undergoing a reaction is still pretty nasty stuff. So basically, the government is being very careful that nailclippers don't fall into the wrong hands, but doesn't care that there's a sizeable hunk of weapons grade plutonium sitting under a field in Poke county, if I remember correctly.

  • YippiYiyoKiYay Jul 7, 2011

    There is a MINOR water leak in a nuclear reactor?..really?...no, no, no...REALLY? Stupids

  • scientistjo Jul 7, 2011

    And if a fire breaks out, we all know how the NCSU student populace will put it out.

  • grimreaper Jul 7, 2011

    A pin head sized hole leaking 10G per hour? Wow, and for how long now? So only 35 pin heads to be a "threat"...I am swelling with confidence...especially since the government just Ok'd this thing a few months ago...