“WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — High levels of radioactive strontium-90 – nearly three times the amount permitted in drinking water – were found in groundwater
near the Hudson River beneath the Indian Point nuclear power plants, the
plants’ owner said Tuesday.
The groundwater does not reach any drinking supplies, and although the
strontium is believed to have reached the Hudson it would be safely diluted
in the river, said Jim Steets, spokesman for plant owner Entergy Nuclear
The strontium – which can cause cancer in high doses – was found in a well
dug as part of an ongoing search for the source of a leak of radioactive
water at Indian Point, which is in Buchanan, 35 miles north of midtown
Manhattan. Entergy’s finding was matched by tests conducted by the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission on the same sample, Steets said. It was the first
confirmed finding of the isotope at levels well above the normal background
The same sample also yielded tritium, another potential carcinogen, at
levels well above the drinking water standard. High levels of tritium had
been found earlier in another well, and the NRC announced Monday that it
would investigate accidental releases of tritium at Indian Point and other
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said Tuesday that the commission still believes
that radioactivity in the water – given that it is not drinking water – is
well below the level that would “pose a risk to public health and safety.”
The sample from the well also found higher-than-normal levels of a third
isotope, nickel-63, but those levels were under the drinking water standard,
The test well, inside a turbine building, is among nine recently dug in an
attempt to pinpoint the leak that is contaminating the groundwater.
Contaminated water first was found in August on the outside of a spent-fuel
pool for the Indian Point 2 reactor, but no leak has been found on the
inside of the pool.
The new findings add to the uncertainty, Steets said.
“When we first got these findings we were scratching our heads because it
does raise questions about what the source (of the leak) really is,” Steets
For example, he said, the presence of nickel might point to the spent-fuel
pool for Indian Point 1 rather than Indian Point 2 because those fuel
assemblies had more steel and nickel-63 is formed in connection with steel.
“It’s still all speculation,” he added. “This is just one data point in a
Entergy said water samples were taken at four depths in the well. Strontium
levels, in picocuries per liter, were 2.4, 3.86, 18.2, and 22.7. The
drinking water limit is 8.
Tritium, which becomes dangerous only at much higher concentrations than
strontium, was found at 12,800, 14,700, 28,000 and 13,300 picocuries per
liter. The drinking water limit is 20,000.”