Sunday, May 20, 2007

Tritium Leaks At Ten Reactors...NRC Trying To Ignore Issue In Name of Relicensing

As I wade through Entergy's bogus Application for License Renewal, it is apparent the document is deliberately vague and ambiguous. More troublesome, the document is dishonest and more than a bit evasive as Entergy tries to stack the deck in favor of winning another 20 years of operation at the aging, trouble plagued reactors. As one example, in the EIS they claim no ill environmental effects from plant refurbishments, as none are planned. Websters defines refurbish as to brighten up, renovate. Renovate is defined as fixing up, making new, restoring to a earlier higher quality state. How can Entergy have an adequate management and control system (as is required to get license renewal) without any envisioned plans for refurbishment of aging sections/parts of the plant? How can they fix leaks without REFURBISHMENT? Someone is lying to us, or the NRC is getting ready to sweep all tritium and strontium 90 leaks at reactor facilities under the carpet, and not require that the leaks be located/found and repaired. Sadly we all know the writing on the wall...another general finding that EXCUSES the licensee from the rules.
Tritium leaks are just the latest perfect example that reactors are aging, starting to crumble and suffer the long term effects of being over worked...these man made machines were designed for a productive life of 40 years, but in the name of a Nuclear Renaissance, the industry and our government are trying to squeeze more life out of them, as a renaissance of the nuclear industry requires them to maintain market share here in America during the transition to new AP1000 reactors, which have little chance of being up on the grid in a major capacity before 2030. The problem is, tritium leaks are spreading, with ten percent of our nation's reactors now experiencing this problem.
So far, the NRC's mechanism to deal with the problem was too form a committee/task force which put out a report stating A) that reactors are experiencing inadvertent leaks of tritium (and strontium 90), but B) said leaks do not pose any IMMEDIATE HEALTH RISKS to members of the public. That catch phrase, no immediate danger, has been the mantra of the nuclear industry from almost day one, but is a fake assurance, the proverbial red herring meant to appease stakeholder communities, provide them with a false sense of security. If you are about to get hit by a train, that is and Immediate Risk, but if cancer causing tritium has entered your body, and the cancer will take ten years to appear, you are in NO IMMEDIATE DANGER, which is why the nuclear industry and the NRC trot out that same old beaten down and worn out mantra of theirs, and surprisingly, the public buys into it.
These leaks do not get better without a refurbishment plant that includes a detailed plan to locate, identify and repair the leaks...according to Indian Points License Renewal Application, there will be no ill effects to the off site environment from refurbishment, as they PLAN NONE. This can only mean one of two things. First, the company is lying to us, hiding their refurbishment plans until after they have won relicensing of the reactors, as many other facilities have done...IE, at a Duke facility, they conveniently did not notice cracks in the fuel nozzles until one month after being granted a 20 year license renewal. The other reality...Entergy and the NRC are prepared to let licensees all over America leak tritium into our local water supplies and sewers for another 20 years, with no requirement that said leaks be located, identified and repaired/fixed. Either reality is unacceptable.

Some articles/links to tritium leak issues:

BRACEVILLE, Illinois — After higher than normal tritium levels were found in groundwater near the Braidwood nuclear reactor, 60 miles southwest of Chicago, Exelon Corporation,owner of the reactors, have bought out one property owner and is presently negotiating financial settlements with 14 other neighbors. The high levels of radiation are due in part to a valve break that occurred in 1998 when three million gallons of tritium-contaminated water leaked beneath the reactor. Four leaks have occurred at Braidwood between 1996 and 2003.

A tritium leak that began in Dec. 2004 at Dresden, east of Morris, Ill., may still be on-going. Levels of tritium 25 times the allowable drinking water limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), were found in a test well near the center of Dresden property, where up to 650,000 gallons of contaminated water leaked from underground pipes. Records show 500,000 picocuries per liter. The EPA allows 20,000 picocuries of tritium per liter. The full extent of the ground water contamination is unknown.

Inside concrete vaults set into the ground where several valves are located, employees at Byron found standing water with tritium levels four times above the EPA limit. Workers are taking environmental samples and engineers are working to determine if tritium has leaked outside the vaults. NRC-approved amounts of tritium-tainted water are normally allowed to drain into the Rock River. — WBBM News Radio,Chicago; & (Chicago) Herald News, Feb. 16, 2005

Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), owner of Palo Verde’s three reactors, notified the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality March 4, that a tritium leak may impact the groundwater. A hole 13-feet deep was dug near reactor Unit 3 to obtain samples of water in a pipe vault. The vault pipe comes from a network of underground pipes beneath the reactor — from whence the leak originates. APS assures the public there is no groundwater contamination although levels in samples are more than three times the NRC-approved limit. Information is unavailable about the extent of area contamination.

HADDAM, Conn. — The NRC learned in October 2005 that the “decommissioned” Connecticut Yankee nuclear site was leaking radioactive water from its waste fuel cooling pool that had contained as many as 1,000 fuel rods. The fuel has since been moved to on-site dry cask storage. NRC inspectors took samples of the cooling water and concrete to determine the extent of the leak. No one knows when the leak began but a few gallons of contaminated water per day breached a 6-foot-thick concrete wall. The water contains cesium, cobalt, strontium and tritium. An NRC spokeswoman repeated the industry’s mantra, “No danger to the public,”when talking about the contamination.
— Hartford Courant, Nov. 4 & 8, 2005
BUCHANAN, New York — The NRC announced that a leak at Indian Point Unit 2 stopped more than four months after it was first discovered on August 22. Local officials were not notified for three weeks. The leak sprang from the 400,000-gallon waste fuel cooling pool. At worst, the leak amounted to two liters per day. Entergy Nuclear Northeast drilled wells to determine the extent of the contamination. Six on-site wells contained contaminated water, with one registering seven times the EPA’s approved threshold for drinking water. Radioactive water is known to have moved into a storm sewer and from there into the Hudson River. The source of the leak is still unidentified — Journal News, January 7, 2006; Times Herald-Record, December 21, 2005.

Groundwater Contamination (Tritium) at Nuclear Plants
Tritium is a mildly radioactive type of hydrogen that occurs both naturally and during the operation of nuclear power plants. Water containing tritium and other radioactive substances is normally released from nuclear plants under controlled, monitored conditions the NRC mandates to protect public health and safety. The NRC recently identified several instances of unintended tritium releases, and all available information shows no threat to the public. Nonetheless, the NRC is reviewing these incidents to ensure nuclear plant operators have taken appropriate action and to determine what, if any, changes are needed to the agency's rules and regulations. The following information provides further basic information on tritium and other isotopes released from nuclear power plants, outlines the status of the unintended tritium leaks and the NRC's actions. Unintended...what a nice way of putting it. No threat to public...tritium is known to cause both cancer, and birth defects.

Plant Sites with Groundwater Contamination

Recent events at several nuclear power plants have highlighted a concern with tritium contamination of groundwater, as a result of unplanned releases, such as those due to equipment degradation. For example, at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, unintended releases of tritium through a crack in the spent fuel pool concrete support wall may have been the cause of the elevated levels of tritium in groundwater in the area immediately surrounding the plant's spent fuel pool. In another instance, at the Braidwood nuclear power plant, unintended releases of tritium from a number of vacuum breaker valves at the plant caused elevated levels of tritium in groundwater in unrestricted, public areas.^PBNTAD01&ID=061370067

During the latter part of 2005(Sept-Dec 2005), IPEC identified an onsite Tritium ground water contamination issue in the Unit 2 transformer yard. The exact source is currently unknown and under investigation but may be associated with a small hairline crack discovered on the Unit 2 spent fuel pool shield wall (southern pool wall). As such IPEC has implemented an aggressive onsite and offsite ground water monitoring program to fully characterized the onsite contamination, to quantify and determine its onsite and offsite radiological impact to the workers, public and surrounding environment, and to aid in identification and ultimate repair of any leaking systems, structures or components affected. So, if they are planning the ULTIMATE REPAIR of the leaks, how can they claim no refurbishments are planned for Indian Point during the 20 year relicense period?

Nuke leaks taint Hudson
The Record Review
March 17, 2006

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission suspects that an uncontrolled release of tritium is going into the Hudson River. The leak was found near the discharge canal at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, situated on the east bank of the river. Also last week, a monitoring well was leaking small amounts of strontium 90, considered a more dangerous radioactive isotope, but the amount leaked was not enough to pose a threat to public health, said officials.

NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said that the tritium leak indicates a migration under the discharge canal and into the river. "The conjecture is that it’s possible it [tritium] would be flowing to the river, and regardless of the amount involved, it’s considered an uncontrolled release." If it is an UNCONTROLLED of many, where are the FiNES?

According to an NRC report, water was sampled in mid-February from the same well that had the highest concentration of tritium levels at 600,000 picocuries per liter of water, 30 times the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water limit of 20,000 picocuries per liter. That sample also showed a small amount of strontium 90, measured to be about 3 picocuries per liter. The EPA drinking water limit for strontium 90 is 8 picocuries per liter. At high levels, strontium 90 and tritium are cancer-causing agents.

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