A nuclear plant leaked oil into Lake Michigan for almost two months, and although the oil wasn't contaminated with radiation, safety groups are alarmed by how long it took the plant to spot the leak. Officials at the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant in southwest Michigan reported the problem to federal authorities on Dec. 20, estimating around 2,000 gallons of oil leaked into the lake starting in late October, reports the Detroit Free Press. Plant officials say the oil leaked from a cooling system at the rate of around 0.04 gallons per minute, which made the leak tough to detect amid water discharge of 1.5 million gallons of water per minute.
"We take samples of lake water every day, but the leak was small enough that we didn't pick it up," a plant spokesman tells MLive.com, explaining that factors including a huge storm at the end of October made it harder to monitor oil flow. The estimate of 2,000 gallons of leakage is a "worst-case scenario" and the true figure is probably less, he says. The director of the Coalition for a Nuclear-Free Great Lakes doesn't find that reassuring. "What's concerning is they don't really know the extent of the leak," he tells the Free Press. "Nearly two months later is the first determination they make that they have an oil leak? It speaks to the quality assurance of all of their other systems." (Read more Lake Michigan stories.)