DEP Announces Start of Tritium Cleanup at Oyster Creek

State of New Jersey
Department of Environmental Protection
For Immediate Release

(10/P94) TRENTON - The first phase of a cleanup of radioactive tritium that leaked from the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant last year and into two aquifers below the facility will begin immediately, with a goal of pumping the tritium contaminated water out of the ground to avoid any potential contamination of potable water supplies, Commissioner Bob Martin announced today.

The Exelon Corp. has agreed to start pumping efforts this week on two monitoring wells which are in the Cape May and upper Cohansey aquifers, and also has agreed to expand that effort to a third contaminated location by early October.

"We have asked Exelon to expedite this effort, to clean up this radioactive material as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure public health and the safety of our drinking water supplies,'' said Commissioner Martin. "Radioactivity has not been measured beyond the boundaries of the nuclear plant or anywhere near a potable water source. Our intention is to make sure that never happens.''

Commissioner Martin said he is encouraged by the Exelon's cooperation with the State in dealing with the tritium issue, especially their willingness to expedite the cleanup process and explore remediation alternatives. But he also pledged that the DEP will carefully monitor the work to make sure it is done properly.

In May, Commissioner Martin announced the launch of a State investigation into the 2009 leak of radioactive tritium into the aquifers below Oyster Creek, which is located in Ocean County. Toward that goal, the DEP issued a Spill Act directive to Exelon, requiring the plant owner to cooperate with the DEP's investigation and take action to prevent the radioactive substance from ever reaching the region's potable water supplies.

In June, Exelon documented levels of tritium in the monitoring wells located in the Cohansey aquifer that exceeded 1 million picuries per liter (pCi/L), as compared with an EPA health-based standard of 20,000 pCi/L. Those levels have since declined markedly, according to information provided Exelon, but are still above acceptable standards, including nearly 700,000 picuries at two locations in the Cohansey and Cape May aquifers.

At a meeting today in Trenton with Commissioner Martin, company officials outlined plans to immediately start pulling contaminated water from the ground below the nuclear generating station to control any further migration of the tritium plume which is currently flowing uncontrolled towards the plant's discharge canal.

That water will be pumped into drums and transferred to a large holding tank on site, eventually to be diluted into massive volumes of water used daily for cooling the power generating process. The mixing effort will bring the tritium levels below detectable standards. This will be confirmed with surface water monitoring in the discharge canal, with the results to be shared with the public.

The plan also calls for continued regular monitoring and analysis of the content of the water pulled from the ground, and careful observation of groundwater levels in the area near the nuclear plant. In addition, scientists are developing a backup plan, if needed, to supplement the work that is starting this week.

Preliminary results from groundwater monitoring wells so far indicate that tritium has not reached the clay bottom of the lower portion of the Cohansey aquifer and has not been detected in any of the wells in the even deeper Kirkwood aquifer. The tritium plume appears to be moving toward Oyster Creek's discharge canal, but no samples taken from the discharge canal have indicated the presence of tritium.

Tritium occurs as a by-product of nuclear power plant operations, and tritium leaks are not uncommon at nuclear power plants nationwide.

Exelon had taken some steps prior to the DEP's previous directive, including drilling additional monitoring wells to identify the extent of contamination. The company also committed to move all pipes containing radioactively contaminated water either above ground or into concrete vaults to avoid similar leaks by the end of 2010, and those upgrades are on track to be completed before the end of the year.

The Bomb Chroniclers

From the New York Times:

They risked their lives to capture on film hundreds of blinding flashes, rising fireballs and mushroom clouds.

The blast from one detonation hurled a man and his camera into a ditch. When he got up, a second wave knocked him down again.

Then there was radiation.

While many of the scientists who made atom bombs during the cold war became famous, the men who filmed what happened when those bombs were detonated made up a secret corps.

Their existence and the nature of their work has emerged from the shadows only since the federal government began a concerted effort to declassify their films about a dozen years ago. In all, the atomic moviemakers fashioned 6,500 secret films, according to federal officials.

Today, the result is a surge in fiery images on television and movie screens, as well as growing public knowledge about the atomic filmmakers.

The images are getting “seared into people’s imaginations,” said Robert S. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb” and an atomic historian. They bear witness, he added, “to extraordinary and terrifying power.”

Read more

Time to End Nuclear Socialism, Says New Study

From Greentech Media:

Accident at Russia’s Kursk Nuclear Power Plant reveals blatant disregard of safety standards: Is the Russian nuclear industry headed for a meltdown?

From Bellona:

Incidents of various degrees of severity are not uncommon at Russian nuclear power plants (NPPs), but when repairs take longer than a month – as was the case with Reactor 1 of Kursk NPP, which was scrammed on July 22 and only went online on August 31 – concerns arise that serious damage must have occurred. A scrutiny of what happened at Kursk NPP seems to indicate the frightening possibility that a malfunction involving any RBMK reactor may turn out to be as devastating as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Kursk NPP: How extensive was the damage?

Kursk NPP is located in Kurchatov – a town bearing the name of the prominent Soviet nuclear physicist, and the man behind the Soviets’ A-bomb, Igor Kurchatov. It stands 40 kilometers southwest of Kursk, a large city in Central European Russia, and operates four power units with pressurized-tube reactors with a total capacity of 4 million kilowatts. Last July 22, an incident took place at the plant that put Reactor 1, an RBMK-1000 installation, out of commission and led to what later turned out to be five weeks of ongoing repairs. Even more disturbing, what information was finally made available about the incident did not come through the official channels from the state nuclear corporation Rosatom or Kursk NPP’s head company, the nuclear power plant operator Rosenergoatom, but from Kursk employees.

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Anti-nuke coalition counters Vermont Yankee filing on preemption

From the Rutland Herald:

The issue of federal preemption at the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor over last winter’s radioactive tritium leak continues to simmer.

In a filing Friday with the Vermont Public Service Board, the New England Coalition, a nonprofit anti-nuclear organization, said that Entergy Nuclear’s attempt to re-examine the issue of preemption is unnecessary and the company has failed to offer any valid reasons for another bite at the legal apple.

Vermont has every right to investigate and protect its groundwater, the coalition argued, and there is well-established evidence that such radiological leaks ultimately increase the costs of decommissioning.

The Vermont Public Service Board opened an investigation into the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee in February, to determine whether the leak had environmental or economic ramifications, particularly in the area of the ultimate decommissioning of the power facility and the contamination of groundwater.

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More troubles at Indian Point nuclear power plant

From the New Jersey Newsroom:

A series of unexplained mechanical failures — including a large hot water leak and the activation of a fire suppression system — triggered an emergency shut down of Indian Point 3 late Thursday night. It is the seventh unplanned shut down between the twin Indian Point reactors in the past two years. The facility is located less than 20 miles from the New Jersey border in New York.

The latest mishap comes just one week after failures in the steam generation system forced the shut down of the companion nuclear reactor at Indian Point 2. That reactor is still off line while engineers at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owners of the Indian Point site, try to find what caused rising water levels in its massive steam generators, and triggered an automatic shut down.

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Davis-Besse can operate for another year before replacing lid, NRC says

From Cleveland.com:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission admits it is still learning how cracks form and spread in crucial reactor parts, such as those that kept the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant shut down for more than three months this year and for two years earlier in the decade.

But the NRC insists the knowledge it has gained in recent years, along with stepped-up inspections, make it a safe bet that Davis-Besse near Toledo can operate for another year before the plant is outfitted with a new reactor lid.

An NRC special inspection team gave a public report of its findings Thursday in Oak Harbor. The final, formal report will be issued in 45 days.

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Exelon's Rowe says gas prices may slow new reactors

From the Daily Herald:

Exelon Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Rowe said he expects natural-gas prices to remain low, pushing back the construction of new U.S. nuclear power plants by a "decade, maybe two."

"We think natural gas will stay cheap for a very long time," Rowe said in an interview today at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York. "As long as natural gas is anywhere near current price forecasts, you can't economically build a merchant nuclear plant."

Rowe said that the price of natural gas would have to rise to $8 per million British thermal units and permits for emitting a ton of carbon dioxide would have to be $25 to make the power prices from new merchant reactors competitive with gas-fueled plants. Merchant plants sell their power on wholesale markets without the income assurance that utilities with regulated electricity rates get.

Natural gas for October delivery fell 4 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.774 at 2:36 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have fallen 33 percent this year and are down 76 percent from the 2005 high of 15.378.

Gas was used to generate 21 percent of U.S. electricity in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration. It's the second-biggest fuel source for U.S. power generation behind coal and drives electricity prices in parts of the country such as Texas.

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EPA Formally Requests Information From Companies About Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Extraction

Press Release

EPA Formally Requests Information From Companies About Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Extraction / Information on hydraulic fracturing chemicals is key to agency study of potential impacts on drinking water

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has issued voluntary information requests to nine natural gas service companies regarding the process known as hydraulic fracturing. The data requested is integral to a broad scientific study now underway by EPA, which Congress in 2009 directed the agency to conduct to determine whether hydraulic fracturing has an impact on drinking water and the public health of Americans living in the vicinity of hydraulic fracturing wells.

In making the requests of the nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers – BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford – EPA is seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted. This information will be used as the basis for gathering further detailed information on a representative selection of sites.

“This scientifically rigorous study will help us understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water – a concern that has been raised by Congress and the American people. By sharing information about the chemicals and methods they are using, these companies will help us make a thorough and efficient review of hydraulic fracturing and determine the best path forward,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Natural gas is an important part of our nation’s energy future, and it’s critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities. EPA will do everything in its power, as it is obligated to do, to protect the health of the American people and will respond to demonstrated threats while the study is underway.”

Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to escape into the well and be recovered. During the past few years, the use of hydraulic fracturing has expanded across much of the country.

EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water. To solicit input on the scope of the study, EPA is holding a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions to hear from citizens, independent experts and industry. The initial results of the study will be announced in late 2012. EPA will identify additional information for industry to provide – including information on fluid disposal practices and geological features – that will help EPA carry out the study.

EPA has requested the information be provided on a voluntary basis within 30 days, and has asked the companies to respond within seven days to inform the agency whether they will provide all of the information sought. The data being sought by the agency is similar to information that has already been provided separately to Congress by the industry. Therefore, EPA expects the companies to cooperate with these voluntary requests. If not, EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study.

EPA is currently working with state and local governments who play an important role in overseeing and regulating fracturing operations and are at the forefront of protecting local air and water quality from adverse impacts.

View the letter on the voluntary information request: http://www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing

NRC Shares Ongoing Seismic Research on Eastern and Central U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

From the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has informed U.S. nuclear power plants about the agency’s ongoing examination of updated earthquake information and modeling for the eastern and central parts of the country.

Recent applications for new nuclear power plants referenced this updated seismic information, which includes Electric Power Research Institute models of earthquake ground motion. NRC staff have used the agency’s Generic Issues Program to analyze that data, as well as recent U.S. Geological Survey findings, with regards to existing eastern and central reactor sites. Western U.S. reactor locations already take into account that area’s greater seismic activity.

“Reactors in eastern and central states remain safe, since our analysis confirms that overall seismic risk remains low. Nuclear power plants have been designed and built considering the most severe historical earthquake in their vicinity, taking into account the uncertainties in the area’s seismic record,” said Eric Leeds, Director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “We’re continuing to examine the recently updated earthquake information.”

The NRC also used the updated information to confirm spent reactor fuel storage sites and fuel cycle facilities remain safe. The NRC’s Information Notice on the subject is available from the agency’s electronic document database, ADAMS, by entering ML101970221 in the ADAMS search engine here: http://adamspublic.nrc.gov/fnopenclient/.

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