Tritium leaks found at many nuke sites
2011-06-21 0:00

By Jeff Donn | SFGate.com

Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the APís yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard ó sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies.

At three sites ó two in Illinois and one in Minnesota ó leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, the records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standard. At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.


In this Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 photo, retiree Bob Scamen stands near a discharge pipe for the Braidwood Nuclear Power Station about 300 feet from his property, in Braidwood, Ill., 50 miles southwest of Chicago. In 1998 the pipe poured out 3 million gallons of water but, at first, Scamen did not realize it was radioactive. Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP


Previously, the AP reported that regulators and industry have weakened safety standards for decades to keep the nationís commercial nuclear reactors operating within the rules. While NRC officials and plant operators argue that safety margins can be eased without peril, critics say these accommodations are inching the reactors closer to an accident.

Any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how slight, boosts cancer risk, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Federal regulators set a limit for how much tritium is allowed in drinking water. So far, federal and industry officials say, the tritium leaks pose no health threat.

But itís hard to know how far some leaks have traveled into groundwater. Tritium moves through soil quickly, and when it is detected it often indicates the presence of more powerful radioactive isotopes that are often spilled at the same time.

For example, cesium-137 turned up with tritium at the Fort Calhoun nuclear unit near Omaha, Neb., in 2007. Strontium-90 was discovered with tritium two years earlier at the Indian Point nuclear power complex, where two reactors operate 25 miles north of New York City.

The tritium leaks also have spurred doubts among independent engineers about the reliability of emergency safety systems at the 104 nuclear reactors situated on the 65 sites. Thatís partly because some of the leaky underground pipes carry water meant to cool a reactor in an emergency shutdown and to prevent a meltdown. More than a mile of piping, much of it encased in concrete, can lie beneath a reactor.

Tritium is relatively short-lived and penetrates the body weakly through the air compared to other radioactive contaminants. Each of the known releases has been less radioactive than a single X-ray.

The main health risk from tritium, though, would be in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tritium should measure no more than 20,000 picocuries per liter in drinking water. The agency estimates seven of 200,000 people who drink such water for decades would develop cancer.

Still, the NRC and industry consider the leaks a public relations problem, not a public health or accident threat, records and interviews show.

"The public health and safety impact of this is next to zero," said Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industryís Nuclear Energy Institute. "This is a public confidence issue."

[...]

Read the full article at: sfgate.com




Related Articles
Tritium - Wikipedia
Another Radioactive Spill in Lake Ontario - Poses No Harm. Really!!
Vermont Yankee nuclear plant continues monitoring groundwater for tritium
75 percent of nuke sites have leaked tritium
Japan Finally Admits TOTAL Meltdown at 3 Nuclear Reactors Within Hours of Earthquake...
Japan slammed as new leak found at stricken nuclear plant
Japan to Cover Damaged Nuclear Reactors with Giant Tents
Norwegian Institute for Air Research is Still Running Fukushima Radiation Monitoring Under the Name "Zardoz"
Who Will Take the Radioactive Rods from Fukushima?


Latest News from our Front Page

The Josh Duggar Incident Reveals The Tactics And Hypocrisy of SJWs
2015-05-30 1:46
Last week, In Touch Weekly broke the news that Josh Duggar, eldest son of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar from TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, had molested five under-aged girls in 2002 and 2003. Josh, who was 14 at the time, was accused of fondling his victims, touching their breasts and genitals while they slept. A police report was released shortly ...
15 More Men of South Asian Descent Charged With Child Sex Offences
2015-05-30 0:42
Police in Keighley, West Yorkshire have charged 14 men and a 16-year-old boy with sex offences including the rape of a girl under the age of 16. The offences relate primarily to one female victim, with one allegation involving a second who was also under 16 at the time. The offences are alleged to have occurred between 2011 and 2012. In ...
Anti-Semitic fliers left on Chevy Chase driveways
2015-05-29 22:45
Five streets in Chevy Chase, Md., were papered with anti-Semitic fliers on Wednesday morning. Montgomery County police are looking for the person or people who left the hate-filled leaflets on almost every driveway on the streets. ‚ÄúThis is very disturbing. My community is definitely disturbed,‚ÄĚ said Jean Sperling, the village manager of Martin‚Äôs Additions, the community where the fliers were found. Sperling ...
German court says ex-SS officer unfit for trial
2015-05-29 22:32
Prosecutors in the northern German city of Hamburg have dropped their probe into a 93-year-old former Nazi SS officer. Gerhard Sommer, who suffers from dementia, allegedly took part in a World War II massacre in Italy. Gerhard Sommer, a former company commander of a mechanized infantry division, had been accused of participating in the mass murder of 560 civilians by Nazi ...
The Age of Disinformation
2015-05-29 21:56
I have been a professional meteorologist for 36 years. Since my debut on television in 1979, I have been an eyewitness to the many changes in technology, society, and how we communicate. I am one who embraces change, and celebrates the higher quality of life we enjoy now thanks to this progress. But, at the same time, I realize the instant ...
More News »