LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Officials at a southwestern Michigan nuclear plant are investigating an oil leak into Lake Michigan.
About 2,000 gallons is believed to have leaked from an oil cooling system on one of the two turbines at the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant in Lake Township near Bridgman, the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday.
The leak was reported Dec. 20 to local, state and federal officials, but may have started in late October.
The oil is not contaminated with radiation because the turbine system is separate from radioactive facilities, plant spokesman Bill Schalk told the newspaper.
“One of the first things we did when we looked at the potential for a leak is examine the lake,” Schalk said. “Oil floats on top of the water and you see a sheen, but we could find no evidence of oil in our reservoirs, in the lake or on the beach. It has been dispersed.”
The oil may have leaked into a tube or tubes in the cooling system and mixed with water from the lake, he said.
Workers were still seeking the leak’s exact location, and Schalk said the cooling system tank where the leak is occurring has been isolated.
Indiana Michigan Power, a subsidiary of Ohio-based American Electric Power Co., operates both reactors at the facility. Three other tanks at the Berrien County facility also cool turbine lubrication oil, allowing the plant to continue operating at full power.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency require follow-up reports within the next month.
The head of a nonprofit watchdog group said he is concerned Indiana Michigan Power doesn’t really know the extent of the leak.
“Nearly two months later is the first determination they make that they have an oil leak?” Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes Director Michael Keegan told the newspaper. “It speaks to the quality assurance of all of their other systems.”
Both reactors at the plant were shut down in early November after excessive debris from large lake swells damaged several water screens, which function to remove debris carried in through three 16-foot cooling water intake tunnels. Indiana Michigan Power said it acted out of caution then because it couldn’t be sure of an adequate cooling water supply to the non-nuclear side of the plant.
Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com
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