Vermont Yankee groundwater well tests positive for radioactive isotope for the first time

From the Los Angeles Times:

A small amount of radioactive material was found in a test of groundwater wells at the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, the plant confirmed Thursday.

The problem at the 38-year-old reactor is similar to those cropping up at nuclear plants around the country, with the discovery of a radioactive isotope called tritium in a monitoring well.

Vermont Yankee spokesman Robert Williams said Thursday the plant confirmed a report provided a day earlier by an independent testing laboratory hired to check samples from 32 groundwater monitoring wells on the site.

Williams said it was the first time a groundwater sample at the plant had tested positive for tritium.

Both Williams and William Irwin, radiological health chief for the Vermont Department of Health, said there was no threat to the public health and safety from the level of tritium reported. They said the 17,000 picocuries of radioactivity per liter of water measured at Vermont Yankee was 3,000 less than the 20,000 picocurie safety limit set for drinking water by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

But Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry engineer who has consulted with the Legislature on issues related to Vermont Yankee, on Thursday called the discovery of tritium on the plant site "a big deal."

"It's a sign that there's a pipe or a tank leaking somewhere" at the plant, Gundersen said. "It's highly unlikely that the highest concentration in the ground would happen to be at the monitoring well," he added.

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