According to USA Today, New York will investigate the Indian Point Energy Center after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he discovered that “radioactive tritium-contaminated water” leaked into the groundwater at the nuclear facility in Westchester County.
In a letter Saturday to the state Health Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation, Cuomo called for the probe after he said Entergy Corp., the Buchanan plant’s owner, reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent – from 12,300 picocuries per liter to more than 8 million picocuries per liter.
While Indian Point reported that the contamination has not migrated off site and does not pose an immediate threat to public health, Cuomo said that the incident requires a full investigation.
“Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat,” Cuomo, who lives in New Castle, Westchester County, said in a statement.
In an email, Entergy spokesperson Jerry Nappi said that the elevated levels of tritium are more than a thousand times below federal limits, and there is no health risk to the public. Drinking water sources both onsite and offsite were not affected.
“While the elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public,” Nappi wrote.
Entergy voluntarily notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission state agencies and stakeholders about the elevated levels of tritium in the monitoring wells, Nappi wrote.
According to Nappi, tritium – a radioactively weak isotope of hydrogen – likely reached the ground at Indian Point during recent work activities. Groundwater monitoring wells were installed around the nuclear plant to provide early detection of any elevated levels of radionuclides in the ground.
Buchanan mayor Theresa Knickerbocker said Entergy informed local officials about the elevated levels of tritium on Friday. According to Knickerbocker Entergy has “always been upfront” and kept officials “informed about what’s going on over there.”
Residents were not contacted about the recent finding because Entergy officials said there was no threat to public safety, Knickerbocker told USA Today.
NY Daily News reports that the site has been under increased scrutiny from Cuomo and other officials following several incidents.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee said in a statement that this is not the “first time Entergy’s operation and maintenance has failed.” The nuclear power plant, Jaffee added, “cannot continue to operate as it has without a full and through investigation of this incident.”
“My primary concern is the potential impact this tritium-contaminated water may have on the health and safety of those who live nearby but also the impact this radioactive water may have on public health and our environment.”
In December, Cuomo called for an investigation after Indian Point underwent a series of unplanned shutdowns, citing potential risks to both the city and the populated suburbs surrounding the plant.
Cuomo said the “latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable.”
Cuomo asked the Department of Environmental Conservation’s acting commissioner, Basil Seggos, and the Health Department commissioner, Howard Zucker, to “employ all available measures, including working with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause and potential impacts to the environment and public health.”
The Indian Point nuclear power plant sits on the Hudson River just 25 miles north of New York City. The plant supplies around 30 percent of the energy to New York City. The site includes two operating Westinghouse pressurized water reactors – Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3. The plant has permanently shut down Indian Point 1 unit reactor.
[Photo by Tony Fischer/Flickr]