Thursday, December 16, 2010

Vermont Power Plant Discovers Tritium Water Contamination

by Duane Craig

Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont, discovered elevated levels of tritium in a couple of the test wells on the property on December 3. The power plant came back online November 11 after being shut down because of a leak in a 24-inch water pipe. Called “a minor leak” by the company, it happened at an access plug on the pipe.

The levels of tritium in the two wells were 65,000 picocuries (pCi/L) and 500,000 pCi/L. The Environmental Protection Agency says 20,000 pCi/L of tritium is the maximum annual exposure safe for humans. The radionuclide is most commonly found as tritiated water since it reacts with oxygen to form water.

As reported in the New York Times, it was just last February when the Vermont Senate said “no” to an Entergy request to add another 20 years to the power plant’s operational license. Tests had earlier found the plant leaked tritium into the groundwater. The wells were drilled to monitor the movement of the tritium underground.

Tritium is and has been widely used in lighted signs as well. There have been cases of contamination developing in landfills from signs being casually thrown away instead of being processed as biohazards.