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Tritium Leak At Vermont Nuclear Plant Grows

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the time-to-step-up-your-broccoli-consumption dept.

Earth 295

mdsolar writes "The tritium leak into ground water at Vermont Yankee has now tested at 775,000 picocuries per liter, 37 times higher than the federal drinking water standard. 'Despite the much higher reading, an NRC spokeswoman said Thursday there was nothing to fear. "There's not currently, nor is there likely to be, an impact on public health or safety or the environment," the NRC's Diane Screnci said in an interview. She had maintained previously that the Environmental Protection Agency drinking water safety limit of 20,000 picocuries per liter had an abundance of caution built into it. ... The National Academy of Sciences said in 2005 that any exposure to ionizing radiation from an isotope like tritium elevates the risk of cancer, though it also said with small exposures, the risk would be low. ' At what level should the NRC shut down the troubled plant?"

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If only Howard dean was still gov. (0, Troll)

Dr.D.IS.GREAT (1249946) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046000)

This shit wouldnt happen if howard dean was still in office. fuck jim douglas up his hate mongering ass!

Re:If only Howard dean was still gov. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046254)

YEARGHHH!!! [youtube.com]

Wow... (4, Insightful)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046006)

Way to shoot yourself in the foot. Why aren't those leaks taken care of fast, whether they are or aren't actually dangerous? We've had enough issues with fear of nuclear power, no need to let such stories grow out of proportions. Otherwise, we'll never see the US convert to nuclear power instead of gas and coal.

Re:Wow... (5, Funny)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046038)

I would shoot myself in the foot, but it's dark and the tritium seems to have leaked out of my gun sights....

Re:Wow... (1)

AtomicOrange (1667101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046252)

You could just lick your watch hands repeatedly...

Re:Wow... (1)

Is0m0rph (819726) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046494)

Thanks to the tritrium I can now see in the dark! Thanks Vermont Yankee!

Re:Wow... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046786)

the tritium seems to have leaked out of my gun sights

Did you loan your sights to the radioactive boy scout?

Re:Wow... (5, Insightful)

poena.dare (306891) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046068)

"On Jan. 7, it was reported that radioactive tritium was leaking from the Vernon reactor into groundwater; the source of the leak has not been found. The following week, it was revealed that Entergy officials had misled state regulators and lawmakers several times in 2008 and 2009 by saying Vermont Yankee did not have the type of underground pipes that could carry tritium."

I very pro-Nuke power... Well regulated, well maintained nuke power, that is. What I don't understand is why we have standards about acceptable contamination levels and then allow corporations to exceed them without severe recourse.

Not being able to find the leak after a month makes it sound like Entergy doesn't even know how their own plant works.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046228)

Yeah, things like this also do damage in worsening the public view of nuclear power.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046280)

Um......

That's because they (the people there now) DON'T know how their plant works.

VY went online in November 30, 1972...

How many original employees do you think still exist there? I'd bet its zero. Or close to it.

How many of the original engineers are even still alive?

They operate at 120% of designed capacity right now too.

Just another example of not taking care of our nations vital infrastructure. Altho in this case it can kill us. BRILLIANT!

captcha:radiator (LOL)

Re:Wow... (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046462)

Obviously, loss of the unwritten wisdom and muscle memory and whatnot of people who retire is inevitable. Not much you can do about.

However, losing entire pipe systems suggests that your organization is suffering from severe failures in the area of documenting and controlling complex systems over time.

Keeping a handle on your complex system, whether it be a plant or a program, is hard; but if you can't do it, you really should consider a career change to something less important.

Re:Wow... (4, Insightful)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046500)

"At what level should the NRC shut down the troubled plant?"

When the projected costs of liability for cancer exceed the projected profits? Oh sorry, you said "At what level should", I read that as "At what level will they". My mistake.

Re:Wow... (2, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046518)

More like they don't care to actually spend the money. It's exactly the short sighted nothing but the quarterly report matters thinking that is busily torpedoing the U.S. economy. A rational person would rather fix the problem now than create yet another public backlash against nuclear power.

I'm not shocked they didn't know (3, Interesting)

plopez (54068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046660)

One of the 10000 or so jobs I have over the years was working in a refinery for a few months. During that time some of the workers tried to find some pipes for maintenance. No one knew where they were. There were the design diagrams, the "as-builts" and numerous additions and removals by contractors upgrading and doing maintenance. Some new ones were out in, some ripped out, and others abandoned in place.

Metal detectors did not help, there was too much metal buried and scattered around.

The situation was so bad they resorted to dowsing. I'm serious!

Lately I've heard of small robots using GPS to travel a pipe and map it out. But with so many old plants and old pipes, it will be a long time before the situation is unsnarled.

Re:Wow... (2, Interesting)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046750)

The tritium leak into ground water at Vermont Yankee has now tested at 775,000 picocuries per liter[...] the NRC's Diane Screnci [...] maintained previously that the Environmental Protection Agency drinking water safety limit of 20,000 picocuries per liter had an abundance of caution built into it.

What's the purpose of a safety limit and abundance of caution if you're going to turn around and claim that it's got lots of caution and therefore can be ignored? Or put another way, does this mean that she considers caution a silly thing to spend any time on?

Like others, I've had to accept that nuclear power is one of the best energy sources, but this is fucking pathetic. Come on, Diane, even people who are pro-nuclear are put off by your bullshit. Close up your shop, get out of town, and let us bring in some people who will do it right. Your attitude makes it clear that this leak is the least of your problems.

Re:Wow... (2, Interesting)

conureman (748753) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046168)

I'd be less skeptical of the Nuclear Industry if they weren't run by people with PhDs in subjects like "Controlling Product Life Cycles". Same as not buying Chinese Baby Food, this is just a groundless prejudice of mine; YMMV.

Re:Wow... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046300)

Hey at least in China some top officials get executed for big screw ups or corruption.

Sure not all top Chinese officials have that risk, but it's still better accountability than in my 3rd world country (Malaysia), where the agency that investigates corruption is a poor joke - they don't even seem to have video recordings of "interviews" (I don't see any evidence of recordings of an interviewee that somehow jumped/fell from the 14th floor of their building).

And it's certainly a big difference from ruining other people's lives and then paying yourself a big bonus.

Re:Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046446)

But China only uses top grade babies for their food.

Re:Wow... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046666)

Soryent Gleen is people. Soryent Yellow is veal.

Re:Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046286)

In Soviet Russia, they had incompetent idiots running their nuclear powerplants, and a government not willing to do the right thing and shut them down. Disaster was the result.

In Corporatist America, they have incompetent idiots running the nuclear powerplants, and a government not willing to do the right thing and shut them down. Disaster in the making?

Re:Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046486)

COOL! X men are on the way! Was Wolverine born in Vermont? I thought he was canadian.

I won't lie- This concerns me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046034)

I am a native Vermonter.... At first the leak was super small, something like 1/7th the legal amount which was no big deal. Why freak out?
Well, now we're finding out the true amount that seems to be getting through. That's pretty sketch guys and It is a bit concerning.

Any nuclear people have input on this situation?

Re:I won't lie- This concerns me (4, Interesting)

HiddenCamper (811539) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046466)

They are finding water near the condensate storage tanks. This is water that is supposed to be used for emergency cooling, replenishing reactor feedwater, and overflow for a couple systems. It is potentially contaminated. It draws its water from the potable water system (typically in most plants), which means that the water going in is supposed to be clean. They need to check if they have a leak in there causing potentially contaminated water to go into the site's potable water system. I'm sure that was already done, at my plant it would have been done already at least. Anyways, condensate storage tanks arent always located inside the plant. It is very likely thats where the leak is. I'm not completely sure why they are getting tritium of all things as in a BWR plant tritium usually isnt your biggest worry. Nuclear plants have a corrective action process that a plant uses to fix problems. Anyone at the plant can put something in the process, it is federally mandated, and its one of those things that an employee cannot lose his job over. The system is very effective and allows the plants to 'self-police'. Finding and fixing a problem like this when the tritium leak was low would have been a low priority fix because the tritium levels were under limits previously. One of the actions they took was likely to install the new wells to find if the leaks were worse near potentially contaminated systems, which they did and found out it was worse. Now they are likely elevating the issue internally, which is why it was reported again to the NRC. So far, the plant sounds like they legally/procedureally done everything right. They made a huge boo-boo by having a PR guy tell people they have no underground piping that could carry contaminated water, it makes me think that guy never took or paid attention during the BWR systems class. The plant cannot be expected to prevent all accidents, but they are expected to mitigate accidents and issues to a minimal risk of safety to the public and to monitor and fix equipment which has repeat failures (things they know are breaking). Long story short, They are going to get investigated, and if this problem has been here longer than they say it has, they are in a bit of trouble. I Tritium isnt terrible in the water, as long as it doesnt get into drinking water. It's in low amounts that it will be diluted easily if it reaches a main water supply. It's still not good, but there are MANY worse things that could have leaked.

Re:I won't lie- This concerns me (4, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046534)

We hear your concerns and we are instituting a remediation program immediately! You should shortly be receiving a package via USPS bulk rate. In it you will find a shovel, a radiation detection badge, and a large zippered radiation proof bag.

Directions

Take the shovel and dig a "Safety" hole three feet wide, 4 to 6 feet deep, and about as long as you are tall.
Put on the detection badge. Please wear the detection badge at all times.
You will note the badge has the words "Hell No, We Don't Glow" printed on it.
If those words fad out OR if the badge does in fact begin to glow you should take the bag and climb into the Safety Hole.
Get in the bag and zipper it up from the inside to keep the radiation out. Now lay quietly in the bottom of the Safety Hole until help arrives.

Thanks for your cooperation.

Re:I won't lie- This concerns me (3, Funny)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046568)

Don't worry, nature has a way of balancing itself out and adapting to changes. You'll probably grow an extra cock, but you'll have extra fingers to hold it with.

We have the answer... (5, Funny)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046044)

Nuke it from high orbit

Oh, wait...

Re:We have the answer... (0, Offtopic)

willyd357 (1293166) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046088)

Haha, nice. Somebody mod parent funny please.

Re:We have the answer... (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046370)

2017 Aliens remake quote: “Nuke it from the river water! It’s the only way to be sure!”

My watch from 1980s glowed in dark due to tritium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046056)

Does that mean people in Vermont will glow in the dark too? Sounds like a win to me.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (1)

VorlonFog (948943) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046064)

Surely there's plenty of potential for making heavy water (d2o), right?

Re:When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046142)

Wrong. Tritium contaminated water is THO, not D2O.

Re:When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (2, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046200)

Then its time to start making heavier water

Re:When life gives you lemons, make lemonade (1)

spazekaat (991287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046702)

Really? Why not T2O? Of course, you may be correct if the ratio of Tritium to Hydrogen was equal, but maybe this is statistics in action. ????? Also, I guess it depends upon exactly when and how the water molecule was created or altered......

oh, mdsolar submitted this story (1, Informative)

Fanboy Fantasies (917592) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046072)

personally I'm sick of his anti-nuclear agenda. White Power!

oh, Fanboy Fantasies commented on this story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046516)

personally I'm sick of his anti-fun agenda. White Powder!

-K. Richards

Get my Tritium and Helium 3 kits TODAY! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046074)

Tritium and its decay product helium 3 are incredibly valuable and there is currently a shortage of helium 3.

Make BIG $$$$ by buying my kit to salvage that Tritium and Helium 3! The Gold market is in a bubble, the stock market is going down, the Real Estate Market is flat and MORE foreclosures are on their way! Glen Beck has expounded on his radio show about how Tritium and Helium 3 is the ONLY hedge against the Obama caused inflation! The Dollar is DEAD! Get the kit and become RICH!

Just capture the Tritium and Helium 3 with the kit, mail it in, receive your check for BIG $$$$$$!!

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Just ten equal payments of $19.99 charged to your credit card in a span of minutes! And if you act NOW, we'll throw in another one for absolutely free!

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1-800-STUPIDS

2.7 million picocuries (4, Informative)

mysqlrocks (783488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046094)

Actually, the latest reading was 2.7 million picocuries: http://www.vpr.net/news_detail/87126/ [vpr.net]

Re:2.7 million picocuries (5, Insightful)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046122)

Can't we just say 2.7 microcuries now?

Re:2.7 million picocuries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046188)

No, it doesn't sound DANGEROUS enough.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046198)

You can. But it's convenient to express data using the most common unit for related data. For example, you could state the distance between Los Angeles and Sydney in megameters, but you almost certainly would choose kilometers over megameters.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046236)

Picocuries (or micromicrocuries, whatever suits your fancy) might be the standard for radcon experts, but they are no where near as ubiquitous as kilometers. Besides, why don't we use megameters? The general public is apparantly able to fathom the difference between megabyte and gigabyte, why not use standard terminology for everything?

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046330)

The general public probably still thinks that a gigabyte is only 1000 megabytes.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046396)

I'm not sure if you're joking, but a gigabyte is only 1000 megabytes. You're only lying to yourself if you think otherwise.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

sabernet (751826) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046424)

Pfft, I've been using "decahectometers" ever since I saw the term "megagig" on Smallville.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046266)

Oddly, if you were an astronomer, you'd express it in centimeters....

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

rhyder128k (1051042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046550)

It's common practice, yes. Unless you were a console manufacturer in the 80s.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046230)

Can't we just say 2.7 microcuries now?

2.7e6 what the hell is a pi

Re:2.7 million picocuries (1)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046508)

Can't we just say 2.7 microcuries now?

Only if we can also say that it is mixed with dihydrogen monoxide [wikipedia.org] so that it sounds especially menacing; a veritable toxic stew that will have your kids glowing in the dark from 10 miles away! No more nuclear power...boo.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046322)

That's good. That reading is a sump inside the plant. It's about the level of the process water, so it's near the leak. They're getting close.

The hazardous readings are all within the plant perimeter. Additional monitoring of off-site wells has been started (ten locations are normally monitored by the State of Vermont, but monthly) and those aren't showing any significant radioactivity.

Re:2.7 million picocuries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046654)

I did the math on this (looking at wikipedia) - 2.7 million picocuries is 135 times the legal limit of 20000 picocuries, which was set to a level which only incurs about 4 mrem of radiation exposure per year. That means that you get exposed to 135x4=540 mrem, or 0.54 rem... and apparently anything under 100 rem is not dangerous.

It doesn't hurt that tritium gets eliminated from the body pretty easily, so it doesn't build up and cause cumulative exposure.

Of course, they probably did all that math themselves, which is why they've been so recklessly lax about fixing it. Bad authorities, no biscuit.

Downstream? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046108)

Where does the water flow? Does it flow south, toward Boston? Or, does it flow north toward Montreal and Quebec?

There are a lot of people that could be affected by this.

How many lives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046110)

How many lives are put at risk when we take a large electrical generation plant off-line? Very tough to calculate, because the impact is so distributed, but there are concrete consequences, none the less.

actually, the levels only doubled (4, Informative)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046120)

The article says the levels in the well from before doubled and are still below the federal level. Levels at another existing well dropped. And a new well was drilled to try to find the leak and it has a much higher concentration of tritium.

Unless you're drinking from the new well (and no one is, it's a test well), this doesn't really affect you at all. It's not like you're getting 37x as much radiation now (at least as far as the data we have says). And it's part of the process of finding the leak and fixing it.

Re:actually, the levels only doubled (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046812)

How nice from the contaminated ground water to stay inside those wells .... oh wait, d'ooh it doesnt!

this will move to other areas, and do not forget that the water might be drunk and while we humans can take a little radiation -outside- our bodies, having this stuff in water we drink is a big recipe for cancer (and do not forget, radiation levels are cumulated over time in our bodies - they do not get lower, they add together!)

we do not apply limits (2, Insightful)

anonieuweling (536832) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046126)

We have a limit, apparently, but of course we do not act in case we go over it.
Is the limit still a limit in that case?

Re:we do not apply limits (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046268)

They are actively investigating the problem (with the likely intention of fixing it...).

The operational limit is probably what it is because there is no reason for a plant to be leaking much tritium, not because they determined a particular level to be hugely dangerous.

Re:we do not apply limits (3, Informative)

HiddenCamper (811539) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046506)

Actually they did act. They noticed the rates increasing. They added more wells and kept testing to locate the problem. They are self-policing and reporting using their corrective action process. Going over a limit will get them a hefty fine, but all things considered when a problem just pops up like this you dont know where its at and you have little control over it. They are doing the right things.

Re:we do not apply limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046556)

It's a limit for DRINKING WATER. Are anybody going dig a well there and drink it?

Tritrium in water? Unacceptable. (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046138)

Why do we Americans put up with this kind of nonsense? How can anyone phoo phoo off something as serious as tritrium in drinking water?

As true Americans who cherish tradition, we should always take our raioactive elements in the traditional way. First mine it with coal, then burn it in a furnace, disperse it through smoke and then ingest it via the lungs. That is the American way. One second before you mod me down as a Luddite, remember I do support modern innovations, like mountain top removal and long wall mining.

Re:Tritrium in water? Unacceptable. (2, Funny)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046676)

How can anyone phoo phoo...

I wonder how Stewie Griffin would pronounce this.

Ignore the limits because they're cautious? (1)

Dragoniz3r (992309) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046146)

So we've got these standards and limits on the amounts of toxic chemicals we allow into our drinking water (and thus bodies), and we build a little bit of extra "caution" in, to make EXTRA sure that we don't accidentally poison ourselves... and then our public officials ignore these limits and standards because they're "cautious"? Really now?

NRC spokeswoman should be given a hands-on lesson in why we include safety padding in these matters.

Nobody's drinking it (2, Insightful)

Sowelu (713889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046194)

The water they're testing is, by federal limits, not drinkable. That said, the water they're testing is not drinking water. If this stuff was getting anywhere that humans were going to drink it, that would be a very serious problem...but they're saying that doesn't seem likely. So no, they're not ignoring the limits. They should act quickly, yes, but still.

How are they allowed to keep running? (2, Interesting)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046162)

I was under the impression that the whole purpose of testing groundwater was to find and STOP contamination. If they've repeatedly failed this test, how are they allowed to continue operations?

to all the nuclear proponents (5, Insightful)

cats-paw (34890) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046182)

I suppose when this sort of thing happens you'll be ok with taxpayers paying the clean-up costs ?

I think nuclear is something we're going to have to use, but I am _extremely_ worried it's going to be another privatize the gains and socialize the losses deal.

Re:to all the nuclear proponents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046222)

You mean, like all our energy today? How does that have any bearing on nuclear power?

Re:to all the nuclear proponents (1)

Urza9814 (883915) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046392)

This isn't a serious problem, and taxpayers _aren't_ paying for it.

But if it _was_ a serious problem, then yes, taxpayers should pay for it. Just like taxpayers pay for it if my house catches on fire. And taxpayers would pay for it if a wind turbine collapsed, and taypayers pay to clean up the pollution left by coal plants and coal mining. You do realize that cleaning up the acid mine drainage from coal mines is mostly paid by taxes, right?

If it's a small leak or a small accident, then yes, the plant should and will pay for it. But in a serious emergency, do you really _want_ them to take care of it? The government has more training in disaster management, and they have more resources. Plus I'm not really gonna trust the people that caused the problem to fix it properly. So yes, taxes pay for disaster relief. That's the way it's always been. But when was the last time there was a disaster at a nuclear plant in the US? I can give you several places where the government is paying to clean up after coal just within a few miles of my house. But the only instance of them cleaning up after nuclear that I can think of is Three Mile Island. And that wasn't exactly expensive.

how low can you go? (1)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046186)

"At what level...?" is always an curious legalistic way to go about the question. I'd reply "as low as possible", that is, it becomes an engineering/economic question, not a biochemical one. How low a leakage of tritium (not good for human ingestion at any level) is feasible? and/or: i'll wager they can do much better than where it currently stands.

I know it's a troll but ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046206)

Every time I'm told how safe nuclear power is something like this happens. The problem they have is the materials are very corrosive and they tend eat through metal and concrete over time. The pipes are buried and the leaks aren't easy to find or fix. Not all the plants use this system but this was one of the plant designs that was considered "safe". Also Hanford has been back in the news because they are dealing with millions of gallons of contaminated water that is slowly leaking. Any time now the ground water is expected to reach a major river. A lot of the contamination comes from processing plants not even reactors. When I was in LA there was contaminated ground water in Canoga Park at several different sites. For something that is so "safe" there sure is a lot of contamination already. People say we can replace all other sources with nuclear power. That would mean 5X as many plants. Worse yet all the existing plants have reached or are nearing their design life. I believe most of the leaking plants are at or nearing their design life. They are trying to extend the licensing on most of the existing plants but is that really a smart idea since many are leaking even without adding 20+ years to them? I know Slashdot is pro nuke and wary of other sources but I've yet to hear of a solar plant or a wind farm contaminating ground water. There's a lot of open desert that is perfect for solar and we have a massive untapped resource in roof tops. There was an intriguing idea of converting roads to solar collectors. For wind most of the power is used along the coast. Offshore wind farms could provide a lot of our power all on their own. It gets rid of most of the bird kill and eyesore issues and the wind is more constant. There are solutions out there that don't involve poisoning groundwater which may one day be a being a bigger need than power.

Re:I know it's a troll but ... (3, Insightful)

Faerunner (1077423) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046404)

You said yourself that most of the currently operating plants in the US are ancient (by nuclear power standards). Newer tech and newer plants would be many times safer and less likely to leak. Replacing the old plants with new ones, or simply building new ones nearby and shutting the old ones down as soon as possible would be a good choice, but many people point to the old plants as examples (as you're doing) without regard for the fact that a new, re-engineered plant wouldn't have any of the problems the 30-year-old ones are having. And in 30 years, I'm sure we'll have the capacity to build even more and better plants, or improve the ones we have so that they will last. The problem is getting past the folks who think that an old standard is the only standard.

Tritium leak monitoring (1)

cronb (994958) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046210)

When something like this happens the plant monitors the flow of the tritium into the aquifer, river, etc. VERY carefully. If those levels rise above set limits then they have to shut down. However, right now they most likely just have to pay a daily fine to operate and that fine is less than the cost of shutdown prior to the fuel reaching the desired burnup. They will most likely continue to operate unless they see a rise above safe levels in the groundwater or the river that is used for cooling.

Not A Major Concern (1, Informative)

echusarcana (832151) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046216)

A light water reactor isn't capable of producing much tritium since hydrogen has to absorb two neutrons to become it. Since it doesn't exist in nature any amount, no matter how small, is detectable. Not really a concern. You would most likely get more radiation exposure from coal.

Re:Not A Major Concern (2, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046288)

It's a bit worrying that standards were set, but after they were violated we hear that it's no big deal. You can't argue that is consistent with effective and rational regulation. Either (a) the standards were set irrationally low, or (b) the public's interests are being shortchanged here.

It is quite possible for both to be true. Allowing silly, unenforceable regulations means that you don't have any rationally defensible ones when you need them.

Re:Not A Major Concern (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046374)

It could simply be the case that containing the tritium is relatively easy, meaning that the regulatory level is far below the dangerous level.

Re:Not A Major Concern (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046644)

It's a bit worrying that standards were set, but after they were violated we hear that it's no big deal. You can't argue that is consistent with effective and rational regulation. Either (a) the standards were set irrationally low, or (b) the public's interests are being shortchanged here.

If you set the standard to be right below the dangerous level it would mean that any time anything went even slightly wrong, the concentration could easily rise to an unhealthy level. Also for poisonous things the amount somebody gets can vary quite a lot. Some people could be especially sensitive, or consume more water than average.

The smart thing would be to set the maximum allowed limit high enough above that there isn't a panic every time somebody accidentally flushes a glass of the wrong thing down the drain, but low enough that if something unusual happens, alarms are triggered before people start getting sick.

So, in this case, tritium isn't found in nature in any significant amounts due to its very short half life. So any time you can find anything beyond a very tiny amount of it would mean that something somewhere went wrong. Even if it's nowhere near the unhealthy amount, a leak at a nuclear power plant can't be a good thing.

Canary in the coal mine (4, Interesting)

argent (18001) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046298)

If the reactor doesn't produce much tritium, then wouldn't that imply that tritium would be a small proportion of the radioactive material released when a leak occurs... but it is detected early because it IS so mobile and easy to detect.

That is, the tritium itself is not the direct cause for concern, but rather an indicator that will lead to locating the real problem.

Re:Canary in the coal mine (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046548)

Mod parent up, this is probably the most insightful comment in the thread. Using the tritium as a proxy for scarier things is a great point.

The amount of tritium they are seeing at this point really isn't a cause for alarm. Microcuries would be worrying, sub-nanocurie quantities in an onsite survey well, not so much. Continually drinking this much in your water could be a problem (hard to say), but if this is a transient problem that gets fixed quickly, what little is onsite will dilute out to irrelevant when it hits the greater water table. At this point public fear of the tritium will likely do more measurable harm than the actual tritium. I'm pretty sure they will evenutally detect it in the water table, but at levels below the limit. There is more significant pollution in a lot of drinking water systems than this, eg. downwind of older coal plants.

I don't think they need to shut down the plant or fine them or do anything alarmist. However, the plant operators now know undeniably there IS a problem and they need to diagnose and fix it, before it gets worse and it becomes a real problem. Leaks tend to change non-linearly,they should consider tehmselves lucky to get a warning when it is slow and get it fixed pronto. IF they wait, and it gets worse, or even stays the same for more than a few years, they are going to have a massive legal fight. Probably on the legal costs to bankruptcy kind of scale. Willfully ignoring the problem will bite them hard in a few years.

-sk

Wait for the 3 eyed fish to show up before going i (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046250)

Wait for the 3 eyed fish to show up before going in and go to sector 7g at the start.

---MR X

Recent ads (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046278)

I live in southern NH, and to be honest, I'm barely aware of VY's existence (after all, they don't supply my electricity).
But I've noticed in recent months that these marketing ads for VY have been showing on the local cable TV touting
their http://iamvy.com/ [iamvy.com] website. I had wondered for what reasons they needed to self-promote, but this latest chain of events
certainly can't be helping.

Now everyone go to your corners and rant. (5, Insightful)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046284)

Far-Right:
There's nothing to see here, it's just those damn liberals and their whining about nuclear power. It's all perfectly safe, there's absolutely no problems whats-so-ever with this plant or any other plant. A possible indicator of other problems around the country? Pshaw.. more liberal clap-trap. We can fix all our power problems with just building a lot of nuclear plants. Waste schmaste.

Far-Left:
This is just PROOF that the nuclear power industry are all a bunch of bastard weasels. We ought to shut the whole shootin-match down for good. We can get all of our power from wind and solar anyway. 37 times the standard! I bet the standard is set too high anyway! These plants are all rotting from neglect, and there's probably a ton they're not telling us! I recently saw The China Syndrome and Silkwood, and let me tell you that's all just the tip of the iceberg! Chernobyl!

I'm just really sick of the nonsense on both sides. They both insulate themselves from the other and don't want to hear any real truths from "the other side". The whole nuclear power issue is 90% a "side of the room argument" where nobody wants to be associated with an idea from "the other side". This is what needs to stop to make any progress on the whole issue.

Re:Now everyone go to your corners and rant. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31046382)

left/right? lol!

Do you also believe that santa and the tooth fairy are real?

Re:Now everyone go to your corners and rant. (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046564)

I'm an old leftie and a fan of nuclear power, so you can't categorise it like that. However, you are right about extreme reactions. There is Tritium in the groundwater. This is bad, needs to be handled, and isn't in any way shape or form a reason not to use nuclear power.

Re:Now everyone go to your corners and rant. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046620)


I'm an old leftie and a fan of nuclear power, so you can't categorise it like that.

All categories are wrong in some fashion. You can call it "pro-nuclear" and "anti-nuclear" if you like. The labels are irrelevant. The whole point is the insulation and people digging in their viewpoints. Being labeled a "troll" only highlights this point.

Re:Now everyone go to your corners and rant. (2, Interesting)

Myopic (18616) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046594)

I was astonished the first time I realized that typical 'environmentalist' groups oppose nuclear power. That blows my mind. To this day I can't figure out how a focus on the environment would lead you *away* from nuclear power, when it is so clearly the safest way to produce abundant electricity with minimal environmental impact.

Re:Now everyone go to your corners and rant. (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046804)


I was astonished the first time I realized that typical 'environmentalist' groups oppose nuclear power.

To some degree it's an artifact of the sidedness of politics. Nuclear power is associated with nuclear weapons (right or wrong, people think of them in the same breath). Nuclear weapons are "bad" for the "the left", and "good" for "the right". Most people have no real understanding anything about nuclear power or nuclear reactions so they turn to these kind of simple associations and dig in for the long fight. It's more complicated that this, but it's all driven by fear.

The real problems with nuclear power largely boil down to cost, and waste. The waste isn't going away anytime soon, and we're going to have to deal with it eventually. Every administration just kicks the waste problem down the road, and hopes someone else has to eventually deal with it. The cost issue I don't know much about, but it's also one that's not going away.

Gee, I wonder if they're hiding anything? (2)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046328)

"Yeah, the water is 37% more deadly.... you should be fine"

Uh thanks.

Ready with the caulk gun (1)

mswope (242988) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046346)

Where's that leak again?

Acceptable risks (1)

Zemran (3101) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046378)

If one person in one hundred thousand starts to glow in the dark and dies, it is considered an acceptable risk for everyone except that person. No one can prove that that cancer that killed that person was caused by the leak so they can get away with it. It is statistically insignificant. I do not like to think that manslaughter is insignificant but these people think that way.

They need to stop this fast... (3, Insightful)

david.given (6740) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046416)

...because tritium's really expensive to make and they're wasting it.

A few years back I bought a bunch of glow-in-the-dark keyrings [glosticks.co.uk] as stocking fillers for my family. These are little tubes containing tritium. The tritium produces very low energy beta particles, which excite phosphor on the inside of the tube, which cause them to glow. They have a half-life of 12 years, which in effect means that they glow usefully for about five or six years before they need replacing. (I should probably get them new ones.)

Let me repeat that: it's a little glowing thing that will glow for six years, continuously. They don't need recharging, they don't need their batteries changed, they don't need exposure to sunlight. They're fantastic for safety-critical things like exit signs. My father sails, and he has his tied to the end of the emergency torch on his boat --- it means that if he needs it in a hurry in the dark, he can find it. I know a nurse who uses them to find things in bags of equipment. They're really handy.

Naturally, they're banned in the US, because they're atomic.

(Tritium, being hydrogen and really hard to contain, will slowly diffuse out through the walls of the glass tube and into the environment. However there's a tiny, tiny amount of the stuff, and the radioactivity they emit is so weak it won't penetrate six millimetres of air, let alone anything solid. I suppose it is possible to absorb the stuff into the body --- we are largely made of hydrogen, after all --- but the low energies, short half-life and tiny quantities means that you're probably more likely to get radiation damage from Bikini Atoll than your tritium keyring.)

Incidentally, did you know that after the Chalk River reactor in Canada was shut down in 2009 due to overreaction, there is now a worldwide shortage of medical isotopes? There are only five reactors worldwide, sorry, four now, that produce the stuff. I wonder how many people that shutdown has killed?

Re:They need to stop this fast... (0, Flamebait)

JamesP (688957) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046464)

Yeah, you see NUKULAR IS BAAD

Nuclear idiots prefer to not have medical supplies and choke on smog from coal plants while warming the planet than touching anythin NUKULAR...

Re:They need to stop this fast... (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046540)

The tritium keyrings look pretty cool! I'd love to order some, but does anyone have any experience with shipping these things internationally (into other EU countries, not necessarily to the US)? I'd imagine the "nucular" aspect makes it a pain in the ass to ship (or smuggle), but maybe I'm overestimating the paranoia.

Re:They need to stop this fast... (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046656)

They are pretty cool! I have one myself, it's pleasantly geeky and damn useful for finding my keys in the dark. The fact I carry it in my pocket makes quite a good prop for explaining why people's "OMG NUKULAR!!" reaction to news stories is mistaken, too. I very much doubt there is any issue with shipping them. The radiation doesn't penetrate the outer casing, so (externally at least) they're basically nothing more than inert lumps of plastic.

There is some minor possibility that they could leak a minuscule amount more than background radiation, but certainly not enough to be of concern, or to be detectable. Even if you smashed one with a hammer, the Tritium would disperse harmlessly into the air.

The only thing that could be a problem is the legal side of matters. Say, for example, that (despite their harmlessness) possession of Tritium is technically illegal under your country's terrorism laws. How much do you trust your court system to show common sense if customs happens to Google what's in those glowy things you bought?

Re:They need to stop this fast... (5, Informative)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046582)

Naturally, they're banned in the US, because they're atomic.

I'm going to have to give you a [citation needed] for that one, on the basis that United Nuclear (a US company) are still selling [unitednuclear.com] them.

Re:They need to stop this fast... (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046678)

Tritium lights are perfectly legal in the United States. Do a google search and there are lots of places that sell them in the US - they are quite common for Exit signs. WalMart was recently fined for improperly disposing of them because they use them in all their stores.

Your quip about Chalk River is just off-topic flamebait. There's a lot of screwed-up stuff happening on that reactor, and it can't be summarized in this conversation. Suffice it to say, I work with someone who has a lot of experience in CANDU reactors and taking that reactor temporarily offline for maintenance is a very smart thing to do. It it not up to spec.

Re:They need to stop this fast... (1)

greyhueofdoubt (1159527) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046686)

Tritium is not banned in the U.S.; I have one of the tritium keychains, a tritium compass, a gun with tritium sights... I don't know, there might be something else I'm forgetting. I have some old cockpit dials that contain radium. My smoke detectors are all radioactive (americium, I think). If I wanted to, I could buy uranium ore, trinitite, and more.

Heck, check this place out: http://unitednuclear.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2_5 [unitednuclear.com]

Note that they are an american company that sells to americans (and other countries, of course).

-b

Re:They need to stop this fast... (3, Informative)

limaxray (1292094) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046740)

Any American gun owner can tell you that tritium is NOT banned in the US - tritium makes for great night sights and is a common addition for home defense weapons.

What a bunch of numbskulls. (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046460)

We get far more exposure from radon outgassing from the granite countertops in our kitchens.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/garden/24granite.html [nytimes.com]

Let's pay attention to something we can actually get exposed to.

Re:What a bunch of numbskulls. (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046754)

We get far more exposure from radon outgassing from the granite countertops in our kitchens.

My countertops are totally non-toxic melamine, you ignorant clod.

Simple decision not weasel words (1)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046526)

Its a hard job to set safety standards for radiation as there really is not any 100% safe level other than absolute 0.

The standards are probably irrationally low for all practical purposes, but regardless of that, there is no dispute that the standards have already been significantly exceeded.

If they were doing their job properly, they simply need to decide to either immediately fix the leak or shut the site down. They can review the safety standards later if they want. To do that properly would require a detailed study, in other words, more time than they have now. I don't even think the NRC has the legal authority to arbitrarily decide to ignore the current safety standards.

The thing that is most scary is the NRC at the highest level apparently believes that weasel words presumably to cover political expediency and cost saving are more appropriate than peoples safety, and a commitment to quickly and properly fix the actual leak.

totally safe (1, Insightful)

hamanu (23005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046552)

For the love of god, tritium decays by beta particle emission. Why the boy-who-cried-wolf nuclear panic over a beta emitter?

Re:totally safe (1)

s122604 (1018036) | more than 4 years ago | (#31046744)

Not totally safe, IF YOU FUCKING DRINK IT.... Even Alpha emitters can kill you, if they get on the inside of you...
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