Tritium levels continue to rise in Pilgrim well

From the Patriot Ledger:

Entergy Corp. has found tritium levels that exceed federal drinking water standards in a monitoring well at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant for the first time since the wells were installed nearly three years ago.

The power plant owner learned on Monday that samples taken on July 7 showed one monitoring well near the Cape Cod Bay shoreline had more than 25,000 picocuries per liter of tritium, a radioactive isotope. The Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum threshold for safe drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter.

The elevated levels of tritium are in a monitoring well that was installed in April. Entergy has found elevated levels in that well since May, and the well’s tritium levels previously peaked at just more than 11,000 picocuries per liter last month.

A nearby monitoring well showed elevated levels of tritium, at more than 3,000 picocuries per liter, on July 7. The plant’s 10 other wells, including several that were installed in 2007, showed relatively low amounts of tritium, plant spokesman Dave Tarantino said.

Tarantino said the tritium leak doesn’t pose any threat to drinking water in Plymouth, largely because the groundwater at the plant flows into Cape Cod Bay. A test of Cape Cod Bay waters showed no elevated levels of tritium on July 7, he said.

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Report: Entergy Vermont Yankee Lacks "Questioning Attitude"

From Seven Days:

A key legislative oversight panel is criticizing Entergy Vermont Yankee's for lacking  a "questioning attitude" that has led to a number of system failures at the aging reactor in recent years.

The Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel (POP) also concluded that Entergy didn't deliberately mislead a legislative panel or a state consultant when it neglected to inform them last August about underground pipes that carry radionuclides.

The three-member panel includes former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, and retired nuclear scientist Fred Sears.

Last summer, Gundersen questioned key Entergy engineers about whether there were underground pipes that could potentially be leaking.

The response: No. Case closed.

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Nuclear Coverup: 10 Cool Examples Of Cooling Tower Art

From Web Urbanist:

Cooling towers have come to symbolize power plants – nuclear or not – around the world. Standing hundreds of feet tall with a distinctive hourglass profile, some of these “towers of power” show an unexpected side: they’ve become colossal curvaceous canvases upon which an astonishing variety of art has been displayed.

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VT Public Oversight Panel Supplemental Report

Supplemental Report of the Public Oversight Panel Regarding the Comprehensive Reliability Assessment of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant

July 20, 2010

Download PDF

Flooding shuts down Unit 1 at nuclear plant

From the Times Leader:

Unit 1 at PPL’s Susquehanna nuclear plant was shut down safely on Friday after about 1 million gallons of river water flooded the basement.

Jeff Helsel, PPL’s Susquehanna power plant manager, described the reason for shutting down the unit.

“(There was) a leak of river water into the turbine building basement,” he said. “The river water entered the basement from a hatch that provides access to part of the unit’s condenser.”

Helsel said the leak could not be resolved without shutting down the unit.

Joe Scopelliti, a PPL spokesman, said the Susquehanna River water is used to cool the steam that is generated by the reactor and comes through the turbine. He said the river water never touches the plant water.

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Manual Scram Due to Unisolable Circulating Water System Leak

Event Number: 46103

"At approximately 1641 EDT on July 16, 2010, Susquehanna Steam Electric Station Unit 1 reactor was manually scrammed due to a large unisolable circulating water system leak in the main condenser area. Attempts to isolate the source of the leakage were unsuccessful. During these attempts, reactor operators lowered reactor power from approximately 90% to about 39%. Based on rising water level in the condenser area and unsuccessful isolation of the source of the leakage, Operations decided to shut down the plant. The reactor operator placed the mode switch in shutdown. All control rods [fully] inserted. Reactor water level lowered to -28 inches causing Level 3 (+13 inches) isolations. The Operations crew subsequently maintained reactor water level at the normal operating band using RCIC. No steam relief valves opened. The main steam isolation valves were manually closed and the circulating water system was shut down. Pressure control was initiated using HPCI in the pressure control mode. All safety systems operated as expected. The reactor is currently stable in Mode 3. Actions to isolate and investigate the cause of the circulating water system leakage are underway. Unit 2 continued power operation."

The licensee has notified the NRC Resident Inspector, and will be issuing a press release.

Tritium leaks challenge nuclear industry

From the Patriot Ledger:

While tritium leaks plagued a number of reactors in recent years, the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth passed its tests without raising any alarms.

Not anymore. Soon after Pilgrim doubled the number of its monitoring wells in April, elevated levels of tritium were found in one of the new wells.

The levels of the radioactive isotope then rose in June, prompting the state Department of Public Health to criticize Pilgrim owner Entergy Corp. By Thursday, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey was involved, with a letter chastising the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for failing to get these leaks under control.

While the levels at Pilgrim are still below federal standards for drinking water, Entergy isn’t leaving anything to chance. An Entergy spokesman says the company has scientists meeting every morning to trace the source of the tritium and respond to concerns raised by state health officials.

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Unit 1 at Susquehanna Nuclear Plant Shuts Down Safely

PPL
For Immediate Release

Unit 1 at PPL’s Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick, Luzerne County, Pa., safely shut down late Friday afternoon (7/16).

“Operators made a conservative decision to safely shut down Unit 1 following a leak of river water into the turbine building basement,” said Jeff Helsel, PPL’s Susquehanna plant manager. “The river water entered the basement from a hatch that provides access to part of the unit’s condenser. The condenser uses river water to cool the steam leaving the turbine.”

Following repairs, operators will restore the system and return the unit to service.

The Susquehanna plant, located in Luzerne County about seven miles north of Berwick, is owned jointly by PPL Susquehanna LLC and Allegheny Electric Cooperative Inc. and is operated by PPL Susquehanna.

PPL Susquehanna is one of PPL Corporation’s generating facilities. Headquartered in Allentown, Pa., PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL) controls or owns nearly 12,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the United States, sells energy in key U.S. markets and delivers electricity to about 4 million customers in Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom.

All 3 units at TVA Ala. Browns Ferry reactor reduced

From Reuters:

 * All units reduced to maintain cooler river temperatures

 * Plants at reduced power until river temperatures moderate
 (Adds details on power reduction)

 NEW YORK, July 16 (Reuters) - All three units at the Tennessee Valley
Authority Browns Ferry nuclear power station in Alabama were reduced by
early Friday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in its power
reactor status report.

 A spokesman for TVA said all three units were reduced to "maintain
river temperature permit with the state of Alabama."

 There is a 90 degree, 24-hour downstream permit that the plants are not
allowed to exceed, said spokesman Jason Huffine.

 The units were at about 65 percent of capacity early Friday, after
being reduced to about half power overnight, and all three were expected to
remain at reduced power until the river temperatures moderate, Huffine
added.

 The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant consists of the 1,065-megawatt
Unit 1, the 1,104-MW Unit 2 and the 1,105-MW Unit 3.

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

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