April 17, 2014

Elyria
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Pair of goldfish smuggled into nuclear plant

Operators of a nuclear reactor near Cleveland are reviewing security cameras and log books to find out who left a pair of goldfish in an underground steam tunnel at the plant.

The goldfish found swimming in a juice pitcher placed inside the secure area didn’t pose a safety concern, but the episode is an embarrassment for the plant already under increased scrutiny for its worker training and procedures.

It’s almost certain that an employee or contractor smuggled them into the Perry nuclear power plant alongside Lake Erie, said Jennifer Young, a spokeswoman for FirstEnergy Corp.

“This is not behavior that’s acceptable,” she said Friday.

Workers removing scaffolding inside the tunnel discovered the goldfish earlier this week. Normally when the plant is operating no one is allowed in that area because of the potential for radiation exposure, but the reactor has been shut down since mid-March for routine maintenance.

Tests found the goldfish were swimming in reactor water and only had slightly detectable radiation levels. But they died Thursday, most likely from a lack of care, Young said.

Plant officials suspect the goldfish — the type won at a carnival — were only in the tunnel a few days.

Nuclear regulators say they want to know more about what happened.

“We’re also looking at the way the plant is responding to the issue,” said Viktoria Mitlyng, a spokeswoman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “It is not a laughing matter.”

The NRC has been keeping a close watch on the plant since 2011 when four contractors were briefly exposed to radiation.

Special inspectors spent months at the plant last year reviewing changes but regulators in January ordered the plant to make improvements in worker training and procedures. Akron-based FirstEnergy has said it has strengthened safety procedures and training for all employees.

The tunnel where the goldfish were found has pipes that carry heated steam out of the reactor building.

Because there are security cameras in that area, there’s a good chance that whoever left behind the goldfish was captured on video, Young said.