Rutland Herald: Yankee contamination appears to be spreading

Feb 09, 2011 No Comments by

Reposted here from the Rutland Herald.

By Susan Smallheer

Staff Writer – Published: February 8, 2011

BRATTLEBORO — The Department of Health announced Monday another well at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant showed radioactive contamination, but at very low levels.

The well is on the northern edge of the mapped plume of the 2010 contamination, which was traced to a series of leaks in the advanced off-gas underground drain system.

“This newest reading likely indicates that the existing tritium plume is slightly wider than previous indications,” said Larry Smith, a spokesman for Entergy Nuclear, which has announced for the past two Fridays that different monitoring wells now show radioactive contamination.

Smith said the new contaminated well in question is on the edge of the existing tritium plume and “does not suggest a new leak.”

And he noted that the well, GZ-23S, is between two wells that had been testing positive for tritium for the past couple of months.

“There is no threat to public health or safety. The positive reading in well GZ-23S is well below regulatory reporting limits,” he said.

The Department of Health said in a release Monday afternoon that the newest results “could be evidence that the original plume is broadening.”

The readings in the new well are between 714 and 721 picocuries per liter, according to the Department of Health. The federal Environmental Protection Agency safe drinking water standard is 20,000 picocuries per liter.

Entergy Nuclear is investigating nearby plant structures, systems and components in hopes of finding the source of contamination in the two earlier wells, which are 150 to 200 feet north of the existing mapped plume.

The health department noted that the only sample it had received of GZ-23S was taken on Dec. 6, and at that time there was no tritium in that sample.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the well was a newer monitoring well and the first sample from it was drawn Nov. 15.

He said there had been migration of tritium outside the mapped boundaries of the 2010 tritium plume.

“Our initial take on the very low levels of tritium identified … would be that it would most likely be coming from the pre-existing plume, but that is not known with certainty at this point. More sampling and hydrogeological mapping will be needed,” he said.

Sheehan noted that the levels found in the well were “very low levels.”

“The lower level of detectability for tritium in groundwater is about 670 picocuries per liter,” he said.


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