Now It's Really Hitting The Fan...
The "radioactive leak from USS Houston" story is continuing to grow -- now they've got Singapore and Malaysia involved. This new story on CNN.com says that the Navy is now informing various government that USS Houston (SSN 713) has been leaking since June 2006:
Last week, Navy officials told Japan that the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, had only made one port call -- March 2008 -- while leaking the contaminated fluid.The rest of it is a rehash of the original story (my post about that, with all the comments, is here). We all know how conservative Naval Reactors is; if one were to assume they were looking over the records of whatever leak checks we might to on this type of valve, and may have found a discrepancy with the last performance of such a leak check, they would have had to conservatively assume that the current leak has existed since the day after the last "good" leak check; that's my guess for why we're seeing the revised information on this. All of us nukes know this really isn't a big deal in the great scheme of things, but I'm sure anti-American politicians will continue to milk it for all it's worth.
But after reviewing records of the sub, the Navy told Japanese officials Thursday that the Houston had been leaking much longer, since June 2006, and had made port calls to Japanese bases at Sasebo, Yokosuka and Okinawa before it was discovered.
Officials have also told the governments of Malaysia and Singapore that the sub made port calls to those countries while leaking the radioactive water, Navy officials said. The Houston also made stops in Guam and Hawaii.
Update 1121 08 Aug: Here's an AP article where they finally put out all the information the Navy has officially released:
The U.S. Navy released a detailed chronology of the leaks over the past two years, showing that the cumulative radioactivity released was less than 9.3 micro curies — with 8 micro curies released in Guam alone. By comparison, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average amount of radioactivity in a smoke detector is about one micro curie, or 1 millionth of a curie.It'd be nice if the Navy could put the press release on one of its websites as well; they may have, but I couldn't find it in a quick search of the usual suspects. The smoke detector analogy is a good one to help people understand the magnitude of the incident; although us nukes recognize that an alpha-emitter like Americium-241 found in smoke detectors isn't really analogous to Co-60 (mentioned by the Navy already here [Intel source: Checks With Chart], for those of you worried about NNPI), it's a good way to show the public that it's a very small amount of radiation we're talking about here. (For those who want to know more about various radionuclides, or if you're just a nuke who who wants to geek out, here a link to a Chart of the Nuclides.) They also corrected the fallacy that had made its way into the earlier articles that the water had never been in contact with the reactor.
Navy Commander Jeff Davis said the Houston is still in Hawaii being repaired and the reactor is turned off. Once the leak was discovered last month, the Navy provided detailed data to the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory — a government facility — to determine exactly how much radiation had leaked over the two year time period, Davis said.
The amount is so small, he said, that the Navy terms it a "weepage" rather than a leak. The problem was discovered on July 17, when about a gallon of water spilled onto a crew member when a fitting came loose. The water had previously come in contact with the reactor, but no radioactivity was detected on the sailor...
...According to the Navy's chronology, the Houston released 8 micro curies in its home port of Guam and .4 micro curies in Pearl Harbor. In addition to the leaks in Japan — a total of .605 micro curies at the three ports — the ship also released small amounts of radiation during port visits in Singapore, Port Kelang, Malaysia; and Saipan.
Anyone remember back a few years ago when some reporter at the San Diego Union-Tribune got ahold of the Discharge Log for one of the CVNs and tried to make a big deal out of the leakage? Hardly anyone remembers that; I couldn't even find mention of it with a fairly thorough Google search. I think this current problem will go away quickly, too. And for that, I credit the quick response of NR in deciding to release the information, in proper context, in a timely manner -- they stayed in front of the story, which is the right thing to do.