NRC tells Sen. Gillibrand that Indian Point tritium leak poses no health risk

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Stephen Burns recently told Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) that a tritium leak at the Entergy (NYSE:ETR) Indian Point Energy Center poses “no risk to the public or plant workers.”

In early February, Entergy revealed the discovery of elevated tritium levels at the nuclear complex, which includes Indian Point Units 2 and 3 in Buchanan, New York.

“Let me first assure you that there is no health risk to the public or plant workers due to the increased tritium levels detected and that the quantity of radioactivity in the leak is a small fraction of the plant’s authorized effluent limit,” Burns said in a March 29 letter to the senator from New York.

“You had asked that NRC consider whether the agency’s regulatory framework could have contributed to the licensee’s low prioritization of repair and maintenance of certain non-safety-related equipment,” Burns said in the letter.

NRC regulations focus on safety-related structures, systems, and components (SSC) needed to ensure the reactor can be shut down and maintained in a safe shutdown condition, and that the plant retains the capability to prevent or mitigate consequences of accidents, Burns said.

“The waste pumping system is not safety-related,” Burns said. “However, even for non-safety-related SSC, licensees have to comply with applicable regulations and standards, and take corrective action when necessary, commensurate with safety significance. Further, being safety-related is not a pre-requisite for enforcement or other agency action should requirements not be met.”

Burns goes on to say that NRC inspectors have done additional structure and system walk-downs in the area of tritium leak. The inspectors are currently conducting a more in-depth inspection of the issue, Burns said.

“The NRC is still investigating the current circumstances at Indian Point and monitoring licensee activities; we are not yet prepared to announce conclusions on how and why this happened and what future actions the NRC may take,” Burns said.

“We will provide our assessment in an inspection report that is expected to be issued in mid-May,” Burns 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.