News

“Indian Point report: Radioactive leaks too small for harm” by Bruce Golding

“BUCHANAN – Radioactive contamination leaking from the Indian Point nuclear power plants into the Hudson River has not significantly increased radiation exposure to the public, according to a new report from the plants’ owner.

The federally mandated annual report found small amounts of dangerous radioactive materials in the groundwater path leading to the river.

Radioactive contamination was discovered leaking underground from Indian Point in 2005 and last month was found in the plants’ sewage. Federal officials have said the leaks were being addressed and posed no threat to the public.

The April 25 report from Entergy Nuclear Northeast, the company that owns and operates the plants, estimates that the maximum potential radiation dose from the leaks is a tiny fraction of the federal 3-millirem limit for annual total-body exposure to an adult through liquids.

Federal authorities estimate that a typical American is exposed to 360 millirem of radiation yearly.

The report estimates the leaks of radioactive strontium-90, nickel-63 and cesium-137 could result in an annual maximum dose of about 0.00178 millirem of total-body radiation exposure. The estimated amount of leaked tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, could produce a maximum 0.0000021 millirem of total-body radiation exposure, according to the report.

Donald Mayer, director of special projects at Indian Point, said the estimated radiation exposures were “very conservative” and assumed the theoretical maximum a person outside the plants could face.

“There is no measurable impact from direct radiation around the plant,” said Mayer, who is in charge of fixing the underground leaks. “It’s a tiny, tiny fraction of the limit.”

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said the radioactive leaks at Indian Point – along with Entergy’s recent failure to install a new emergency siren system on time – meant that upcoming inspections to verify the report’s findings would be more extensive than usual.

Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C., said data in the report showed potential radiation exposure from the plant’s spent-fuel storage pool far exceeded that from the groundwater contamination.

“Even if the groundwater was 100 times more than it is presently thought to be, it would still be about 40 times lower than the radwaste storage dose,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Or, there would be more to gain by putting up a wall to reduce the radwaste storage dose than to completely eliminate the groundwater leakage dose.”

The report said the estimated radiation from the spent-fuel pool – less than 7 millirem – was indistinguishable from naturally occurring background radiation at the site.”

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