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High Radiation Levels in Groundwater at Indian Point

The Indian Point Nuclear Power Station experienced five emergency shutdowns in 2015. (Tony Fischer/Flickr)
The Indian Point Nuclear Power Station experienced five emergency shutdowns in 2015. (Tony Fischer/Flickr)
February 9, 2016

NEW YORK - State officials say "alarming levels" of radioactive tritium have been detected in groundwater from test wells at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Station.

According to news reports, the contamination at one well had jumped to over 8 million picocuries per liter, 400 times the EPA maximum for drinking water.

Entergy, which owns the facility, emphasized that the tritium was detected in groundwater, not drinking water. But Paul Gunter, director of the Radioactive Oversight Project for the group Beyond Nuclear, says that distinction is not reassuring.

"Today's groundwater is somebody's drinking water someday," says Gunter. "Water recycles; it's not made. It's a gift."

The tritium-tainted water reportedly came from a spill during a maintenance exercise. Tritium is considered a health risk that can lead to cancer.

Governor Cuomo has ordered state environmental and health agencies to conduct their own investigations of the tritium release, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending a radiation-protection specialist to the facility. But Gunter points out this isn't the first leak, and probably not the last.

"There are miles of buried pipe that it's just earth-on-pipe," he says. "They don't even want to risk digging them up to inspect, because they'll just break them with the backhoe."

Gunter says his group sees the tritium release as symptomatic of the NRC's broader inability to regulate the nuclear power industry.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY