Initial Soil and Groundwater Remediation Work Now Underway
Click here for Mark Savoff's Presentation.
animation of the recently stopped tritium pathway
Vernon, VT -- Entergy Corporation
today announced it has identified and stopped the source of tritium leakage at
its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and has begun initial work to support the
remediation of soil and groundwater at the plant site.
The successful effort to identify the
source of the leakage, fix the problem and prevent a recurrence capped an
intense and rigorous effort by Entergy with the oversight of state and federal
regulators that began in January when elevated levels of the radionuclide
tritium were detected in monitoring wells built for that purpose.
In a special briefing for key
stakeholders, Entergy’s Executive Vice President, Operations Mark Savoff
expressed regret that the leak occurred. At the same time, Savoff announced that
the company has embarked on a six-point, fleet-wide initiative to become an
industry leader in tritium leak prevention, detection, and mitigation. The
six-point initiative includes benchmarking industry best practices, prioritizing
structures, systems and components, improved inspection techniques, and improved
strategies for prevention, monitoring and mitigation of leakage.
Vermont Yankee engineers involved in
the tritium investigation said the leakage came from two separate pipes inside a
concrete tunnel. A floor drain that normally would have taken the water from the
Entergy tunnel for normal processing was found to be clogged with debris and
mud. This allowed the tritiated water to seep through an unsealed joint in the
tunnel wall to the soil and eventually the groundwater.
The pipes, which drain moisture from
the plant’s Advanced Off Gas (AOG) system, have since been rerouted. After
identifying where the leakage to the soil occurred, workers continued efforts to
identify other such pathways to the soil and found none.
Groundwater remediation to remove
tritium will begin today with the pumping of shallow groundwater into
above-ground containers for processing and reuse in the plant. The pumping will
greatly reduce the concentration of tritium in groundwater. Also, planning is
underway to remove about 150 cubic feet of soil that contains small amounts of
other contaminants such as manganese and cobalt. The soil will be disposed of at
a federally licensed disposal facility.
Since the elevated tritium
concentration was first confirmed at Vermont Yankee in early January, an intense
investigation has been underway by a multi-disciplined technical team including
Vermont Yankee engineers, chemists and environmental monitoring specialists. In
addition, individuals and organizations from outside the company that have
expertise in hydrology, well drilling and robotics assisted in the effort.
Entergy Site Vice President Mike
Colomb expressed gratitude to the investigation team for the dedicated, careful,
and thorough approach it took in investigating, identifying and stopping the
tritium leak. “This team has proven that a difficult problem can be solved with
the right combination of expertise, experience and willingness to work day and
night to see the project through to successful completion.”
There has been no detectable tritium
level found in any drinking water well samples at the Vermont Yankee site or in
the Connecticut River. Both the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the
Vermont Dept. of Health have said that the tritium in the groundwater at Vermont
Yankee has not been a threat to public health and safety. Tritium is a
radioactive form of hydrogen that occurs naturally and is also a byproduct of
nuclear plant operations.
Entergy Corporation is an integrated
energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail
distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with
approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the
second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers
electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi
and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of more than $10 billion and over 15,000