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Radioactive waste water from nuclear plant spills into Rhine

Source:  Copyright 2004, Associated Press
Date:  April 29, 2004
Original URL: Status DEAD

KARLSRUHE, Germany — Thousands of liters of slightly radioactive water have flowed into the Rhine river in southwestern Germany after a pump malfunctioned at a nuclear plant, a power company said Wednesday.

Dirk Ommeln of Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg said the water leaked into the river when a valve was mistakenly left open, but he said the health risk was minimal.

"The water was lightly contaminated," said Ommeln, who likened the radioactivity exposure of drinking a liter of the water to having a dental X-ray.

Still, the 30,000 liter (7,900 gallon) leak overnight Saturday was not reported to the state Environment Ministry until Monday, prompting criticism from the local government, which requires immediate reporting for all incidents.

The ministry also said the contamination was not strong enough to pose a health risk.

The spill occurred during the testing of high-speed valves that conduct waste water into tanks. An unexpected increase in pressure blew out one valve that allowed the contaminated water to enter the Rhine.

The failure was discovered Sunday.

Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg is Germany's third largest energy company.

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