Markey: Latest Potential Pipe Leak at Nuclear Plant Highlights Need for Reform

Congressman Ed Markey
For Immediate Release

In letter to NRC, Markey renews call for improved oversight of buried piping systems.
 
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee released a letter today he sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reiterating his concerns over the process for inspecting buried piping systems at our nation's nuclear power plants in light of media reports of another potential tritium leak.
Recently, the Boston Globe reported that a groundwater monitoring well located between Plymouth’s Pilgrim Nuclear Station and the Atlantic Ocean detected elevated concentrations of tritium.  Identification of this radioactive isotope is often the first sign of leaking buried pipes at nuclear power stations.  The NRC has already identified at least 32 separate incidents of such leaks, most recently at the Vermont Yankee plant.

“This report is yet another disturbing reminder of the dangers lurking in the miles and miles of buried pipes within nuclear reactors that have never been inspected and will likely never be inspected,” said Markey. “This is simply unacceptable and cannot possibly be sufficient to ensure the safety of both the public and the plant.”

In the letter, Chairman Markey urged the NRC to pay additional attention to the issue of the inspection, maintenance and oversight of buried piping systems.

 “The possibility that there are buried pipes leaking tritium at Pilgrim is not surprising.  After all, the plant is almost 40 years old and located in a corrosive near-shore environment,” Markey wrote in the letter. “The current inspection regime for buried pipes – physical inspections conducted only in those rare instances when pipes are dug out for other purposes – is incapable of ensuring the integrity of decades-old piping systems.”

“Other industries have figured out how to inspect their buried pipes in a proactive and comprehensive fashion.  How many more failures do the nuclear industry and the NRC need before they admit that aging buried systems need additional attention?”
 
Full text of the letter can be found here http://markey.house.gov/docs/nrc_pilgrim-leak_july2010.pdf