Leak Continues at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant
Vermont Senate Vote on Closing Nuclear Plant Could Come Next Week
Bad news continues to flow from the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Levels of radioactive contamination are growing in several on-site wells at the power plant, according to the Vermont Department of Health (VDH). Yesterday, company officials announced they were forced to scrap their initial plan to track down the source of the leak. A new plan may be implemented as soon as today.
The VDH announced testing results obtained yesterday, with seven wells showing tritium contamination ranging from 2,400 picocuries per liter (pCi/l) to 1.99 million pCi/l. According to federal standards, tritium levels above 20,000 pCi/l are considered unsafe. A well located just 100 feet from the Connecticut River tested at 113,800 pCi/l. No tritium has been found in samples of river water, but a state health official has said it is logical to assume that the radioactive plume had reached the river earlier this week.
The VDH map below shows the locations of the wells, Vermont Yankee buildings and the proximity to the river.
(Click on map to download higher resolution PDF image.)
Readings from the wells (in pCi/l):
- 3 = 32,000
- 4 = 2,400
- 7 = 991,000
- 10 = 1.99 million
- 12 = 18,800
- 14 = 113,800
- 15 = 305,000
The readings were provided by Vermont Nuclear. On it’s Website, the VDH states that:
To date, independent testing by the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory has generally verified test results by Vermont Yankee’s contractor.
VDH officials report that no tritium has been detected in any of its nearby groundwater test sites.
Nuclear Plant’s Fate Up in the Air
Meanwhile, the Vermont state Senate will likely vote next week on a request by parent company, Entergy, to renew the troubled plant’s 37-year-old operating license for another 20 years.
Vermont is the only state the requires approval by its legislature to renew operating licenses. Because both houses must approve any extension, a “No” vote in the state Senate next week could make the closure of Vermont Yankee in 2012 a certainty.
The emergency at Vermont Yankee comes at an awkward time for the Obama administration. The president announced on Tuesday a $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee to a utility company to build two new nuclear plants in Georgia. They would be the first commercial nuclear power plants built in the US since the 1970s.
In a phone press conference on Tuesday, DOE Secretary Steven Chu, said that the new generation plants “are designed to be built in a way that’s safer and more economical.” Chu didn’t mention Vermont Yankee by name, and no reporters asked about it.