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Tritium

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.

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Friday
Feb262010

"Democracy in action": Vermont State Senate blocks license extension at Vermont Yankee!

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.

Tuesday
Feb232010

Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee covered up tritium leak for five years

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.

Friday
Feb192010

Nuclear whistleblowers take aim at Vermont Yankee

The Associated Press has reported that Paul Blanche, an energy consultant based in Connecticut who has worked for several New England reactors, has accused both Entergy Nuclear and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of a "run-to-failure, fix-it-when-it-breaks mentality," saying he wouldn't get on a plane run by an airline with that approach. "There's no justification for continuing to operate that plant," Blanche said. Meanwhile, Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, Inc., himself a former atomic whistleblower and now serving on a State of Vermont public oversight panel on Vermont Yankee's re-licensing, recieved a phone call from a current whistleblower at the reactor saying that Entergy Nuclear officials knew of radioactivity leaks two years ago emanating from buried pipes. If true, this would bolster allegations of perjury by top level Entergy officials, who testified under oath to state officials last year that there were no underground pipes carrying radioactive materials, such as hazardous, carcinogenic, radioactive tritium. State officials are taking this latest allegation very seriously, further diminishing Vermont Yankee's hopes of surviving a Vermont State Legislature "no confidence" vote next Wednesday

Monday
Feb152010

Tritium concentration in leak at Vermont Yankee nears theoretical maximum

The Associated Press reports that a sample of contaminated water taken from a sump pit at Vermont Yankee atomic reactor contained 2.7 million picocuries of tritium per liter. This is closely approaching the level of tritium concentration in the reactor's cooling water supply itself, which registers around 3 million picocuries per liter. Remarkably, in this sense, reactor tritium appears to be leaking, through unmonitored and uncontrolled pathways, in violation of clearly stated NRC regulatory criteria, from the reactor to unpermitted underground areas of the nuclear power plant, nearly undiluted. Tritium concentrations in groundwater monitoring wells are also showing increasing levels of contamination, now surmounting 834,000 picocuries per liter, over 41 times higher than allowed by EPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Monday
Feb152010

Entergy Nuclear seeks to boost profits by neglecting maintenance

In an editorial that despairs of ever getting "Straight answers" from Entergy Nuclear about its degraded, leaking Vermont Yankee atomic reactor, the Rutland Herald reports that Entergy CEO J. Wayne Leonard recently told investors that cash flow problems at Vermont Yankee will be solved by raising electric rates, as well as by " 'lower[ing] working capital requirements'...In other words, the company is investing less in the plant to enhance profits, which may account for the fact that it is falling apart. " Entergy Nuclear is equally guilty of neglecting major safety repairs and replacements at its Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert, Michigan. A Palisades' presentation to the Michigan Public Service Commission in 2006 (see page 2) revealed several major fixes required to address known safety risks at the reactor, including replacement of the corroded reactor lid, annealing severe reactor pressure vessel embrittlement, replacing the steam generators for the second time, and enlarging sump pumps and fixing filtering screens in order to deal with debris clogging coolant flow during an emergency. However, since taking over ownership and operations at Palisades in 2007, Entergy has fixed none of these major problems. And just as Vermont Yankee is leaking hazarous radioactive tritium into groundwater and the Connecticut River, Palisades is leaking tritium into groundwater and Lake Michigan. In both cases, drinking water supplies, food chains, and public health downstream are at risk.

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