south carolina nuclear plant
© Tim Dominick
SCE&G’s V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County, S.C.
A leak at the V.C Summer atomic power plant north of Columbia is occurring on the welding of a six-inch pipe that is losing one-fifth of a gallon of water every minute, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

That isn't much of a leak and it poses "little to no safety significance'' as employees work to make repairs, NRC spokesman Joey Ledford said in an email Tuesday. Ledford said the leaking pipe is among hundreds in the nuclear reactor's containment area.

Atomic safety watchdog Tom Clements questioned last weekend why Dominion had not notified the public of the leak, saying atomic safety should not be taken lightly.

But Ledford said Dominion Energy didn't have to tell the NRC because the leak wasn't large enough to warrant a notice.

The company notified the NRC last week that it was shutting down the power plant while the water leak was being repaired. The leak sprang from the pipe several weeks ago, according to Dominion. It remains inside a containment area that separates the nuclear reactor from the outside environment.

Ledford said Tuesday small leaks like the one in V.C. Summer's reactor coolant system are not uncommon. The NRC declined to say when the plant would be running again.

Consultant David Lochbaum, a nuclear safety expert formerly with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the NRC's assessment appears accurate. Lochbaum, who has studied safety at nuclear reactor, said the Summer plant has historically had fewer safety problems than some other plants across the country.