Tritium leak being managed, monitored by NJ DEP, Exelon

Aug. 27, 2010
TRENTON, NJ, Aug. 26, 2010 -- Commissioner Bob Martin said the NJ DEP has received the first data set from testing additional wells at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station required under the current action plan...

TRENTON, NJ, Aug. 26, 2010 -- Commissioner Bob Martin today said the NJ DEP has received the first data set from testing additional wells at the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station required under the current action plan, and plant operator Exelon Corporation is preparing to take remedial action.

Preliminary results from groundwater monitoring wells indicate that tritium has not reached the clay bottom of the lower portion of the Cohansey Formation and has not been detected in any of the wells in the Kirkwood Formation. The tritium plume appears to be moving toward Oyster Creek's discharge canal, but no samples taken from the canal have indicated the presence of tritium.

"We have enough data now to determine that Exelon and the DEP should take remedial action as soon as possible," said Commissioner Martin. "While there is no current risk to public health or safety, the sooner cleanup begins, the more we can limit the spread of current contamination."

In June, Commissioner Martin issued a directive requiring Exelon to take a series of steps to investigate the leak of radioactive tritium into aquifers below the plant and ensure the radioactive substance does not endanger public health or safety. Exelon has been working closely with the Department to ensure that impacts to the aquifers are well understood. To that end, it has drilled eight additional intermediate and deep groundwater monitoring wells in the Cohansey. Exisiting wells deep in the Kirkwood and potable wells on and adjacent to the Oyster Creek plant also have been tested, and none have detected tritium.

Tritium occurs as a by-product of nuclear power plant operations, and tritium leaks are not uncommon at nuclear power plants nationwide.

The initial testing data has delineated the tritium plume, the groundwater flow, and the depth of contamination, with testing continuing on a weekly basis. As more data is available, the DEP will continue to work with Exelon to determine options to contain the plume and clean up the site.

Commissioner Martin said he has been encouraged by Exelon's cooperation in addressing the tritium and by the company's openness to looking at remediation alternatives.

Exelon had taken some steps prior to the DEP's directive, including drilling additional monitoring wells to identify the extent of contamination. The company also committed to move all pipes containing radioactively contaminated water either above ground or into concrete vaults to avoid similar leaks by the end of 2010, and those upgrades are on track to be completed before the end of the year.

DEP press release regarding action plan: http://www.nj.gov/dep/newsrel/2010/10_0051.htm

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