‘Minor’ radiation leak in FitzPatrick nuclear plant has gone unfixed for 4 years via Syracuse.com

SCRIBA, N.Y. – The owner of FitzPatrick nuclear plant has allowed highly radioactive waste to leak into a contained area of the facility for at least four years, a safety violation that poses no risk to the public but might make it more difficult to decontaminate the site after the reactor closes.

The problem was cited in the most recent quarterly inspection report by federal safety regulators.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the accumulation of spilled radioactive waste in the basement of a building at FitzPatrick is of “very low safety significance” because it occurred in a locked, highly shielded area that is already highly radioactive.

“The bottom line is, we have been aware of this issue for some time, but it poses no immediate risks to any residents or the environment,” said Neil Sheehan, speaking for the NRC.


Nuclear plant owners are required to minimize the accumulation of residual radioactive waste in their plants, which can “greatly increase the cost and complexity of future decommissioning” after a reactor shuts down, according to the NRC.

Entergy officials today said they put off cleaning up the spill to avoid exposing workers to unnecessary radiation. They have made a robot to do the job instead, said Tammy Holden, speaking for Entergy.

“Cleanup of the area had not been conducted previously because we did not want to subject our employees to unnecessary radiation,” Holden said. “We have fabricated a vacuum-type robot that will be used to remove the sludge. The removal is scheduled for this month.”


Anti-nuclear activists said the NRC report should raise concerns about the aging FitzPatrick plant, which started operation in 1975.

“These violations highlight the ongoing dangers posed by the upstate nuclear reactors and the lax enforcement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission,” said Tim Judson, of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service. “Entergy has known that this highly radioactive waste spill is a problem for four years, but the NRC has not imposed any fines or other penalties.”

The NRC rates FitzPatrick’s general safety performance as “green” in all 17 categories monitored, the best of four color-coded ratings.

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