USS Houston Radioactive Leak ReportedIt's just my luck... on the day that my normal blog, The Stupid Shall Be Punished, is unavailable for posting after being erroneously identified as a potential "spam blog", we get a story about submarines and nuclear power that shows up on the front page of CNN.com. Excerpts:
Water with trace amounts of radioactivity may have leaked for months from a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine as it traveled around the Pacific to ports in Guam, Japan and Hawaii, Navy officials told CNN on Friday.While us nukes know that this really isn't that big a deal, we really can't talk about it in the open like this. All of us know where the leak came from (it's obvious they weren't using the "drum" this time) but any discussion of coolant discharge is pretty much covered by NNPI, so we can't go there. For example, until this post, there's only one Google return for the search "coolant discharge log"; luckily for me, it's from an official Navy site (Vol. VI, Chapter 25, Para. 25.2.4 of the JFMM), but it only says that the discharge log can be used to determine the number of days in-port or in drydock for URO periodicity determination -- that brief mention at least allows me to mention that such a document exists.
The leak was found on the USS Houston, a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, after it went to Hawaii for routine maintenance last month, Navy officials said.
The problem was discovered last month when a build-up of leaking water popped a covered valve and poured onto a sailor's leg while the submarine was in dry dock...
...Officials with knowledge of the incident could not quantify the amount of radiation leaked but insisted it was "negligible" and an "extremely low level." The total amount leaked while the sub was in port in Guam, Japan and Hawaii was less than a half of a microcurie (0.0000005 curies), or less than what is found in a 50-pound bag of lawn and garden fertilizer, the officials said.
Pretty much all we can do is confirm that the amount of radioactivity reported discharged in port is very, very small and wouldn't be likely to cause any problems. I can also add that, in my experience, the discharge log is one of the most closely audited pieces of administration on the boat, so you can be pretty sure that the numbers the Navy is putting out are right.