Michigan nuclear plant repairs second tritium leak

Aug. 12, 2009

Kalamazoo Gazette

BY ROD SMITH Special to Hometown Gazette


COVERT TOWNSHIP -- A second radioactive leak at the Palisades nuclear plant has been fixed.

``I'm happy to say we have found the source of the leak, and have repaired that.'' said Mark Savage, the public-affairs and communications director for Palisades.

The new leak was at a turn in a pipe and happened because of the failure of a weld, Savage said. The pipes and welds are stainless steel.

``We think it was during original construction,`` Savage said.


The plant, located on Lake Michigan near South Haven, Mich., has been owned by Entergy Nuclear since 2007. It has been operating since December 1971. 


In June, Savage told the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners that tritium levels were rising in monitoring wells.


Last year the company found a leak in one of the pipes feeding the storage tanks. It was drained and fixed and Tritium levels diminished after those repairs.


Savage said Entergy Corp. is looking into replacing all six pipes next year but hasn't made a decision.


In 2007, Palisades found a level of 22,000 picoCuries per liter of water, 2,000 above the reportable level for drinking water; however, none of the monitoring wells are used for drinking water.


At 22,000 picoCuries, Palisades had not been required to report the tritium to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, since the wells were not drinking water wells, but the company did so anyway.


Tritium is a weakly radioactive form of hydrogen that can combine with oxygen to form a type of water. It is created in nature when hydrogen reacts with cosmic rays. Its half-life is 12.3 years. In the nuclear reactor, it's found in what's called ``utility water.'' That water is pumped to two holding tanks.





Exelon: No public threat from tritium leak


A tritium leak was found during routine monitoring of Exelon Corp.'s nuclear power plant, but contaminated water was contained to the property and did not pose a public health threat, company officials said Monday.

Testing at the Dresden plant, near the town of Morris about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, found tritium levels of 3.2 million picocuries per liter of water in a monitoring well, storm drains and concrete vault. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's limit for drinking water is 20,000 picocuries per liter.


But there was no public safety threat because the contaminated water did not appear to have left the plant, officials said in a written statement.


The Associated Press