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ABC10 News

Once, nuclear power plants represented the height of America’s technological prowess. But now that they’re getting old, they’re no longer gleaming fortresses of high-tech success. And when they break, sometimes they’re fixed the old-fashioned way — with a little ingenuity and masking tape.

The photo above was given to a local ABC news team in San Diego. It’s a picture from inside the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, which sits on the California coast between Los Angeles and San Diego. The photo shows the leaky joint of a massive pipe that’s been jerry-rigged with some plastic, masking tape, and broomsticks.

The plant confirmed that, yes, it’s a picture from inside one of its units, but wouldn’t say when it could have been taken. The unit in question leaked radiation in 2012, and the plant was shut down. The source who provided the picture says it was taken in December 2012.

Now, no one’s claiming that this leaky pipe is about to spew radioactive waste everywhere. The pipe carries ocean water into the plant and then back out. The plant told ABC10 News:

This is part of the system that takes in ocean water which is circulated through condensers and then returned to the ocean. This water is not radioactive.

We identified a small leak in the water box and will perform maintenance per our scheduling process. In the meantime, plastic is in place to direct the water from the small leak to a drain.

But that’s not exactly the problem. The problem is that a nuclear plant is fixing its system with plastic and masking tape. That’s fine if you’re a college kid with a leaky pipe in a house that you pay $200 a month for to a landlord who lives in the Bahamas. But this is a nuclear power plant! The person who produced the picture puts it pretty clearly:

“If that’s nuclear technology at work and that’s how we’re going to control leaks I think the public should know,” the inside source said.