WASHINGTON — The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has pledged to boost oversight of the Indian Point nuclear plants after the apparent leak of a radioactive isotope, aides to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday.
Clinton, D-N.Y., met with NRC chairman Nils Diaz, who told her he would announce in coming days “enhanced oversight … with respect to both the leaks and the emergency notification system,” said the senator’s spokesman, Philippe Reines.
Diaz didn’t spell out exactly what the enhancements would be, but they could include additional reporting requirements and closer monitoring of the site.
“They already have sent additional inspectors to Indian Point to check our work,” said Jim Steets, a spokesman for Indian Point’s owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast.
“They’re more than welcome to send more people, we’re all on the same side of this issue,” he said.
Entergy and the NRC said last week that low levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope, have been found in water at the bottom of six sampling wells on the Indian Point property in Buchanan, N.Y.
The tritium may be the result of a leak from Indian Point 2’s spent fuel pool, first detected in August.
In one of the wells, the amount of tritium found was slightly above the federal standard permitted for drinking water. However, none of the wells, which are 20 to 30 feet deep, are used for drinking water or for anything other than sampling groundwater.
The water is believed to have leaked from a 40-foot-deep pool, which holds the highly radioactive fuel assemblies that have been used in the nuclear reactor. Experts are not sure if there is a new leak or if the contaminated water could have come from a previous, already-repaired leak and just remained for years in the ground.
Tritium, which is used in a range of products from watch faces to nuclear bombs, is present in nature in tiny amounts and is also a byproduct of the reactors.
The company is also wrestling with the failure of emergency sirens meant to warn surrounding communities.
Last week, a majority of the sirens in Orange County did not work during a test, and a similar test last month in Rockland County also failed.
The sirens have been a near-constant headache for Entergy, which has pledged to replace the entire system within the next two years.