The Catawba Nuclear Station is a nuclear power plant located on a 391-acre (158 ha) peninsula, called "Concord Peninsula", that reaches out into Lake Wylie, in York, South Carolina. Catawba utilizes a pair of Westinghouse four-loop pressurized water reactors.
As a part of the Megatons to Megawatts Program Catawba was one of the plants that received and tested 4 fuel assemblies containing MOX fuel with the plutonium supplied from old weapons programs. Because concerns of nuclear proliferation are greater with fuel containing plutonium, special precautions and added security were used around the new fuel. The 4 test assemblies did not perform as expected and at present those plans are shelved.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) defines two emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants: a plume exposure pathway zone with a radius of 10 miles (16 km), concerned primarily with exposure to, and inhalation of, airborne radioactive contamination, and an ingestion pathway zone of about 50 miles (80 km), concerned primarily with ingestion of food and liquid contaminated by radioactivity.
The 2010 U.S. population within 10 miles (16 km) of Catawba was 213,407, an increase of 53.3 percent in a decade, according to an analysis of 2010 United States Census. The 2010 U.S. population within 50 miles (80 km) was 2,559,394, an increase of 25.0 percent since 2000. Cities within 50 miles include Charlotte NC (35 miles to city center).
More than 100 gallons of water contaminated with radioactive tritium was released. However, the levels of tritium were less than one half the EPA limit for tritium, and the leak was contained before it reached ground water.