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Friday
Jun242011

NRC: "amount of radioactive materials released from underground piping system leaks has been small relative to...permitted discharges"

The following excerpt from a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled "NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: Oversight of Underground Piping Systems Commensurate with Risk, but Proactive Measures Could Help Address Future Leaks," requested by U.S. Representatives Markey (D-MA) and Welch (D-VT), and released in the wake of an A.P. investigative series entitled "AGING NUKES," is very revealing about "routine releases of radioactivity"

"NRC's regulations allow certain levels of radioactive materials to be discharged into the environment. As part of its license application, a licensee performs calculations of its expected releases, and NRC reviews these calculations to verify their validity and conformance to NRC requirements. NRC's review and verification are documented in reports, and the licensees are required to monitor their discharges. Most of the systems used to discharge these radioactive materials are not classified as "safety related." According to NRC officials, the amount of radioactive materials from underground piping system leaks has been small relative to these permitted discharges. Furthermore, the officials noted that a leak of tritium in and of itself is not a violation of NRC requirements."

Such a stark admission -- a truth often obscured by NRC pronouncements or lack thereof -- undergirds the points made in Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet on "routine radioactive releases," as well as its report, Leak First, Fix Later, about radioactivity leaks from underground pipes.