Entergy monitoring groundwater tritium at Indian Point nuclear center

Entergy (NYSE:ETR) said Feb. 7 that its groundwater monitoring program has recorded elevated tritium at the Indian Point Energy Center, which is a major power provider for New York City.

“Recent samples from our ongoing comprehensive groundwater monitoring program identified elevated levels of tritium in three monitoring wells out of several dozen at Indian Point,” Entergy said in a statement. “While elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public, and releases are more than a thousand times below federal permissible limits. The tritium did not affect any source of drinking water onsite or offsite,” the company said.

While the effect of these elevated values is less than one-tenth of 1% of federal reporting guidelines, Entergy made voluntary notification to the NRC, state agencies and key stakeholders, the company said.

The issue of tritium in the ground is a well-studied issue, including by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which has previously concluded historic leaks of tritium to the ground at Indian Point have no effect on public health or safety, Entergy said.

Tritium, a radioactively weak isotope of hydrogen, likely reached the ground at Indian Point during recent work activities. Indian Point installed groundwater monitoring wells onsite to enable early detection of any elevated levels of radionuclides in the ground.

Indian Point Energy Center, in Buchanan, N.Y., is home to two operating nuclear power plants, Unit 2 and Unit 3, which generate approximately 2,000 MW and supply about 25% of power used annually in New York City and Westchester County.

Cuomo: ‘This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable’

But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a vocal critic of the nuclear station located less than 30 miles from New York City, views this as a serious issue.

“Yesterday I learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility,” Cuomo said in a Feb. 6 statement.

“The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent. The facility reports that the contamination has not migrated off site and as such does not pose an immediate threat to public health,” Cuomo said.

“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 said.

“This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable and I have directed Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause and potential impacts to the environment and public health,” Cuomo said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.