“Radioactive water leaking at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant is collecting beneath the plant in an area that is larger than 1000 square feet. Don Mayer of plant-owner Entergy and John White of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told a skeptical and antagonistic crowd of about 450 people on Tuesday that some of the collections of water were high in tritium content.
“The pools are about the size of the transformer yard which is a couple 100 feet by a couple of 100 feet,” said Mr. Mayer, director of special projects for the Buchanan plant. The special public meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Environmental Conservation and Entergy at the Crystal Bay Restaurant in Peekskill was held in response to the rising concerns about radioactive leaks from the 40-foot-deep spent fuel pools containing over 1,000 tons of extremely high radioactive fuel.
Mr. Mayer explained that the leaking radioactive water was collecting and migrating someplace else. “The water is quite simply going to the Hudson River,” he said. “It is going underneath and near the discharge canal and then into the discharge canal.” The discharge canal empties radioactive effluent from the plant into the Hudson River where the plant is based.
Since August, officials at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants have been trying to find the source of tritium-laced water leaking from Indian Point Unit 2 fuel pool. Last week water sampled at a well less that 150 feet from the Hudson River showed strontium-90 at three times the amount allowed in drinking water. Strontium-90 is a dangerous radioactive isotope that increases the risk of cancer.
“Neither I nor the employees at the Indian Point Energy Center find the current conditions that we are dealing with to be acceptable,” said Fred Dacimo, executive vice president of the plant. “They are not acceptable and they need to be resolved.”
After brief applause he said “We will pull out all the stops to find where these leaks are occurring and we will fix these leaks.”
Local officials at the meeting who were met with applause included Westchester County Board of Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (Somers), Putnam County Legislator Vincent Tamagna, (R-Philipstown) and Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi. Representatives from Senator Clinton’s office and Congresswoman Nita Lowey got applause, but the aide from Congresswoman Sue Kelly’s office was greeted with heckling “boos.”
Mr. Kaplowitz asked for an independent investigation claiming that the assessment reports were produced by the very entity that holds most at stake. “What we have is a lack of trust,” he said. “What’s missing is the independent element. We are asking the NRC to get involved and become the quarterback for the investigations. You are our regulators, please play your regulatory role. With that comes credibility and trust.”
Four weeks ago House representatives from New York including Maurice Hinchey, Nita Lowey, Eliot Engel, and Sue Kelly introduced legislation that would require the NRC to conduct an Independent Safety Assessment of Indian Point. If passed into law, it would give the NRC six months to report on the safety of Indian Point.
Members of the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition (IPSEC), a grass roots group of over 70 organizations pledged to close the plant, sat in the audience dressed in ‘Sherlock Holmes’ type caps an held magnifying glasses. Co-founder of IPSEC Mark Jacobs said “Look around the audience, NRC and you see some people with hats on and magnifying glasses. These are actually independent inspectors. The NRC is not or will ever be independent.”
Manna-Jo Greene from Hudson River Clearwater asked what Entergy was physically doing about the leaks of radioactive water. Mr. Mayer said that the spent fuel pool for unit one was undergoing a process of de-mineralizing.
“We are also providing charcoal absorption for the PCB’s in unit 1 and de-mineralizing the effluence,” he said. “On the rest of the site we are developing plans on how we could create a pumping situation and pull the water back and minimizing the water going into the river.”
Finding the actual leaks in unit two’s spent fuel pool has proved difficult. In September Entergy hired special divers to go into the pool to find the leak but they were unable to inspect hard-to-reach places. “We had divers and remote video cameras employed to inspect areas of the pool,” said Mr. Mayer. “But what we need are special robotic cameras to look underneath the spent fuel pool rack. We have hired a new vender that uses small cameras and we will see what we could find.”
Entergy hired hydrologist Matt Barvenik, Senior Vice President of GZA – GeoEnvironmental, Inc. of Boston, presented visual information about the type of bedrock under the plant and water flow directions.
“This type of bedrock is known as Inwood Marble which is structurally sound and has a low permeability to ground water, which means water has a hard time getting through the bedrock,” said Mr. Barvenik. He explained that the Hudson River was a regional sink with ground water coming from each side of the river. “The water flows under the river and comes up in the middle,” he said. “The ground water from one side of the river is very unlikely to get to the other side of the river, and vice versa. The water from this side of the river is not getting to the other side.”
A light moment came in Mr. Barvenik’s presentation when he showed a slide of the Hudson River that had gray boxes representing the plant. To further explain the river hydrology he said “Let’s look at the river without Indian Point.” Delight over the visual of the river minus the plant drew unexpected, thunderous applause.
The NRC held their annual assessment for Entergy just hours before the evening meeting also at Crystal Bay. Although open to the public no comment was allowed during the presentation, but questions could be asked at the end. The NRC told Entergy that Units one and two operated “in a manner that preserved pubic health and safety.”
Just outside, with the Hudson river as the backdrop, members of IPSEC and Riverkeeper held a press conference countering the annual assessment results. IPSEC member Susan Shapiro said she was concerned that meetings with Entergy and the NRC were not a matter of public record.
“That the NRC is in there listening to Entergy and patting them on the back is very disturbing,” she said. “After the assessment meetings they have public comment but we now know that it is not part of the record. It never goes out of that room and Washington officials don’t know what’s going on.”
At the evening meeting Mr. Dacimo repeatedly said there was no health or safety risks to the public from the ground water contamination at Indian Point.
“Entergy and the NRC have taken numerous samples of drinking water supplies in the area and they have not detected any activity from the units,” he said. “My personal standards and the standards of the company will not allow this to continue without an investigation. We live and work in this community. Our families live here, pay school taxes. We are taking responsibility.”
A study just released this week in the medical journal “International Journal of Health Services” found raised levels of cancer in children who live near the Indian Point nuclear plant. The higher levels were attributed to the increases in radioactive Strontium-90 in local children studied over a four year period. The study by the Radiation and Public Health Project was partially funded with $25,000 from Westchester County legislators and researched strontium-90 in baby teeth. The report said that “the trend in average Sr-90 levels in 239 baby teeth of Putnam, Rockland, and Westchester County children was similar to that of cancer incidence in local children under age ten.” In a press release from RPHP, researcher Joseph Mangano said “The study of Strontium-90 in baby teeth is evidence that what was found in groundwater is also escaping into the environment and may be harming local children.” This is the 22nd medical journal article published by RPHP.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced two weeks ago that a special task force will study “inadvertent, unmonitored releases of radioactive liquids containing tritium from U.S. commercial nuclear power plants.” Among the nuclear power plants reporting radioactive water leaks are New Jersey’s Oyster Creek, the oldest commercial nuclear plant in the country reporting four tritium spills, the Braidwood nuclear plant near Braceville, Illinois, Arizona’s Palo Verde nuclear power plant, 50 miles from Phoenix, the Dresden plant near Morris, Il., the Byron plant near Byron, Illinois and the Indian Point plant, just 27 miles from New York City.”
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