Highly radioactive tritium has leaked into groundwater at the Indian Point nuclear site 40 miles north of Manhattan, New York, write Sam Thielman & Alan Yuhas. Governor Cuomo has ordered a review of safety at the site, where two reactors are operating with no NRC license.
Radioactive material has leaked into the groundwater below a nuclear power plant north of New York City, prompting a state investigation on Saturday and condemnation from Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In one location radioactivity levels rose nearly 65,000%, from 12,300 picocuries per liter to over 8,000,000 picocuries per liter.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum contaminant level for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter, though Entergy, the company that owns the plant, emphasized that only groundwater, and not drinking water, were contaminated.
Both reactors operating without licences
An astonishing aspect of the matter is that Indian Point units 1 and 2 are both operating without licences from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Unit 2’s licence expired in September 2013, and Unit 3’s licence expired on 12th December 2015. However in both cases the NRC his given permission for the plants to keep on running while Entergy’s renewal applications for 20-year extensions were under way.
Since their licence expiries both reactors have been involved in unauthorized radiation releases, of tritium in particular, and numerous unscheduled closures.
Tritium is a relatively short-lived radioactive hydrogen isotope that cannot penetrate the skin, however it can be consumed in food and water and be taken up in tissues. It is considered a health risk for illnesses, including cancer.
There have been many tritium leaks at the plant in recent years, though Saturday’s leak appears to be the most serious so far. Public Service Commission chair Audrey Zibelman faces a deadline for the results of the pre-existing investigation by President’s Day, 15th February.
- Gov. Cuomo: ‘Alarming’ levels of radioactivity found after Indian Point contaminated water leak via abc7