Initiation of blade cracks in Francis turbine runners endangers the safety operation of power stations, so it is crucial to detect the cracks before emergencies happen. This article is a preliminary study of applying acoustic emission (AE) technique to detecting the large-scale turbine runners. A series of experiments had been carried out on an HLA286a-LJ-800 Francis turbine runner. The attenuation characteristics due to propagation distance were studied. From the tests, it is concluded that AE signals are detectable after propagating at a distance of 6 m. The propagation distance is the major factor of attenuation. As a result, although attenuation is incurred, it is feasible to apply AE technique to monitoring crack signals in runners. However, it depends on the understanding of background noise and extraction of right signals.