The Brattleboro Reformer reports that radioactive tritium contamination has been detected at a depth of 200 to 220 feet below ground in an aquifer that was used up until Feb. 2010 for drinking water. The well was no longer used for drinking water once Vermont Yankee's tritium leaks to groundwater were discovered. While both Entergy Nuclear and NRC spokespeople denied this latest finding has any implications for human health or safety, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates warns that Vermont Yankee must continue to extract tritium contaminated groundwater, lest tritium or even other radioactive isotopes such as Cesium-137 and Strontium-90 leak downward into the deep aquifers, threatening neighboring drinking water supplies.
Tritium is radioactive hydrogen and is widely used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. It is also found int the discharge water of nuclear reactors.
The risks of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, could be underestimated because it could bind to DNA, recognizes the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) in a recent white paper. In light of this possibility, the ASN wants new investigation into hereditary effects from tritium exposure, better monitoring and more restriction of tritium releases from nuclear facilities. Reported in Le Monde.
Entergy Nuclear has now admitted that the bone-seeking radioisotope Strontium-90 has been discovered in soil near underground leaking pipes at its Vermont Yankee atomic reactor on the bank of the Connecticut River. Several years ago, Sr-90 was also detected leaking from the high-level radioactive waste storage pool at Entergy Nuclear's Indian Point atomic reactors on the bank of the Hudson River in New York State. Nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates warns that Sr-90, which is highly soluble in water, can concentrate in bones and cause leukemia, and thus is the most hazardous radioisotope yet discovered leaking into the environment at the 38 year old reactor just across the Connecticut River from New Hampshire, and just several miles upstream from Massachusetts. Other leaking elements discovered into the site's groundwater and soil include tritium, cobalt-60, cesium-137, manganese-54 and zinc-65. Raymond Shadis of the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution is very skeptical that Entergy Nuclear's assurances that all Sr-90 contamination at Vermont Yankee has now been accounted for and cleaned up.
As the still fruitless search for the source of leaking tritium entered its seventh week, and despite last minute announcements by Entergy Nuclear -- that five top Vermont Yankee managers had been placed on vaguely defined "administrative leave" and another six "reprimanded," that a non-public internal report supposedly found no intention to mislead state officials (despite false testimony under oath), and an "offer," described by Entergy as a "gift" but by others as a thinly veiled bribe -- the State of Vermont Senate, by a resounding vote of 26 to 4, has blocked the request to extend the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor's operating license for 20 additional years, forcing it to shutdown in 2012 as previously planned. Despite this, Entergy Nuclear has vowed to fight on. Beyond Nuclear issued a media release regarding the Vermont State Senate's unprecedented "no confidence" vote against Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, as did Public Citizen. Beyond Nuclear congratulates the grassroots anti-nuclear movement of New England, including the Vermont Yankee Decommissioning Alliance, as well as Citizens Awareness Network and its Vermont chapter, without whose tireless efforts, this tremendous victory could not have been won. New Hampshire Public Radio quoted Cort Richardson, a Clamshell Alliance member who has fought against Vermont Yankee for 35 years, as saying: "I think it’s a proud day for Vermont. It’s a day when everyone can really feel proud of their legislature. They took the testimony. They listened. They studied and they came up with the right conclusion. To me that’s democracy in action. It worked...The plant’s continuation is rejected totally and unequivocally." Extensive additional news coverage, much of which pointed out the Vermont decision "bucks" President Obama's call for an expansion of nuclear power, included: AP; Burlington Free Press; CBS News; Rutland Herald (including activists' response to the victory); Vermont Public Radio; WCAX TV; and WPTZ TV.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed that a 2005 radioactive, carcinogenic leak of tritium at the Vermont Yankee atomic reactor was not reported to them until now. The Reformer also reports that 45-year-veteran of the industry, and nuclear whistleblower Paul Blanch, has leveled blistering criticism against both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Entergy Nuclear (which he calls "the worst of the worst") regarding the "run it to failure and fix it when it breaks" philosophy at Vermont Yankee. "I wouldn't accept that program for my car," Blanch said. The State of Vermont legislature has scheduled a vote on Wednesday morning to decide whether or not it will allow for a 20 year license extension at Vermont Yankee, currently due to shut down in March 2012.