A draft copy of Indian Point’s investigation into tritium leaking beneath the Unit 2 reactor says it’s best not to pump radioactive water.

Buchanan — When is doing nothing better than decisive action? When “nothing” might slow the movement of radioactive waste.

Owners of the Indian Point nuclear power station say the best way to deal with radioactive water leaking beneath the Westchester County plant is to leave the isotopes alone, and let nature take its course.

During a four-hour update yesterday on efforts to find and patch sources of tritium and strontium-90 in ground water, plant engineers outlined plans they said will focus on monitoring, and make cleanup unnecessary.

“Pumping is definitely not recommended and will not be pursued,” said Don Mayer, special projects manager for plant owner Entergy Nuclear Northeast. “It would make a nonproblem a potential problem,” he said.

Since August 2005, plant engineers have worked to characterize the source and extent of two radioactive leaks beneath the riverside reactors.

The first leak was found in connection with a cracked spent-fuel pool at Indian Point 2. That discovery led engineers to find low-levels of tritium-laced ground water beneath the pool.

Results from test wells, underwater cameras and pool divers prompted Entergy to conclude the likely source is an old leak since patched, officials said yesterday.

But that conclusion doesn’t wrap a bow on the company’s leak problems.

Next door to the Indian Point 2 pool is another reactor, the now-defunct Indian Point 1. And beneath it, another leaking spent-fuel pool, this one spewing strontium-90.

By themselves the radioactive leaks might not pose much of a cleanup problem. But together, Entergy says, they create a unique challenge: There’s no way to pull one out of the ground without spreading the other.

Not everyone agrees, of course. Phillip Musegaas, a staff attorney for Riverkeeper, who was not at the semiannual update, called the decision “absurd” when briefed by a reporter.

“Leaving the contamination in the ground is unacceptable, because they basically mean you’re going to leave it in the ground to leach into the Hudson River,” Musegaas said. “They are making a big mistake as far as public perception is concerned. I don’t think the public will accept that, and we certainly will not.”

While regulators have concluded contamination is reaching the Hudson, and state scientists plan to expand fish sampling this summer, they say the levels of radiation are miniscule and pose no threat to public health.

Compared to the plant’s legal discharge limit — about 1,800 curies of tritium annually, for example — the leaks are barely a measurable drop in the bucket.

Still, state and federal regulators aren’t ready to put their stamp of approval on Entergy’s no-pump plan, which has not been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

But even as tests continue, John White, an NRC branch chief for radiation inspection, hinted leaving the material in the ground might be the best option. “It you start pumping on Unit 2, there’s a distinct possibility you could (cross) contaminate,” he said. “It’s not prudent to do that.””

To view the complete article, search the archives at the link below: