Tritium leak found at River Bend Nuclear with levels up to 48,000 pCi/L

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river-bend-nuclear-plant.jpgOfficials at Entergy Corp.’s nuclear power plant near Baton Rouge say they have notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about a leak of radioactive hydrogen.

The Advocate reports that an elevated level of tritium was found Wednesday in a groundwater monitoring well at the Entergy River Bend Station in St. Francisville.  Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping.

Damratoski said River Bend Station normally tests 13 of its 31 monitoring wells on a quarterly basis, but will now test the contaminated well and its surrounding wells on a monthly basis.

The concentration in the monitoring well measured 48,000 picocuries per liter, or more than twice the 20,000 picocurie limit the Environmental Protection Agency allows for drinking water, Damratoski said.

Entergy dealt with a tritium leak at its Vermont nuclear plant in 2010 that contaminated soil and groundwater. Damratoski said the two situations are difficult to compare because the amount of tritium that leaked at each plant.

“All we know about (the River Bend leak) is the amount, which in comparison is far less than the amount than they found in Vermont,” she said

“We’re vigorously going after this to find what the source was,” Damratoski said.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP’s yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants.

Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.

While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite.

Power Reactor Event Number: 47541
Facility: RIVER BEND
Region: 4 State: LA
Unit: [1] [ ] [ ]
RX Type: [1] GE-6
Notification Date: 12/21/2011
Notification Time: 11:52 [ET]
Event Date: 12/21/2011
Event Time: 09:30 [CST]
Last Update Date: 12/21/2011
Emergency Class: NON EMERGENCY
10 CFR Section:
50.72(b)(2)(xi) – OFFSITE NOTIFICATION
Person (Organization):
Unit SCRAM Code RX CRIT Initial PWR Initial RX Mode Current PWR Current RX Mode
1 N Y 100 Power Operation 100 Power Operation

“On Tuesday, December 20, 2011, technicians discovered detectable levels of tritium in an onsite groundwater well. The measured concentration of the isotope was approximately 48,000 picocuries per liter. This discovery was made during the conduct of the site’s ongoing groundwater monitoring program.

“The tritium concentration in the well sample exceeds the EPA established threshold for drinking water of 20,000 picocuries per liter. However, no groundwater wells on the River Bend site are used for drinking water. There has been no tritium identified in any wells downstream of, or surrounding, the affected well.

“This test result does not indicate any threat to public health or safety, since the affected well is only used for groundwater monitoring, and not drinking water. Other onsite wells in the area were tested and will continue to be tested to ensure the tritium is not migrating offsite. The monitoring of the wells in the area immediately surrounding the affected well will be increased to a monthly frequency.

“Voluntary notification of this discovery has been made to local and state governmental agencies, with the initial notification being made at 0930 CST today. This event is being voluntarily reported in accordance with 10CFR50.72(b)(2)(xi) as a condition related to health and safety of the public and onsite personnel for which a news release is planned.”

The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector, state and local agencies and will be releasing information to the media.

River Bend Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power station on a 3,300-acre (13 km2) site near St. Francisville, Louisiana, approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of Baton Rouge. The plant has a General Electric 978 MW boiling water reactor, which began operation on June 16, 1986.

Source: The Advocate

Source: Nola

Source: MSNBC

Source: NRC Event Notifications

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