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Massive leak at nuclear facility in New York causes 65,000% increase in radioactivity of ground water

Indian Point Energy Center

(NaturalNews) On February 6, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that a nuclear power plant about 40 miles from Manhattan had leaked one of the most potent radioactive carcinogens into the groundwater. The groundwater in that area flows to the Hudson River just 25 miles north of New York City.

"Yesterday I learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked," the governor said in an official statement. "The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well's radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent."

Alarmingly, the leak is not the first for this plant in recent years. In fact, such leaks are relatively common among U.S. nuclear power plants.

Potent carcinogen released into river

The leak took place at the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which supplies about 30 percent of New York City's electricity. Jerry Nappi, spokesperson for plant operator Entergy, said the leak probably came from a "spillage of water as a result of a mechanical issue during pumping of water" during January.

Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said that an out-of-service sump pump caused water to build up and overflow from a containment drain. This then produced a leak from the building, and eventually the radioactive water made its way into the ground. There was no word on why the leak went undetected for so long.

Samples taken at the testing wells around the plant showed the highest radioactivity levels ever detected at Indian Point, in some cases exceeded 8 million picocuries per liter. The radioactive component that escaped appears to be tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Alarmingly, tritium is most carcinogenic when it contaminates drinking water. It can also cause birth defects.

"Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat," Cuomo said.

Even ignoring the millions living in New York City, 317,000 people live just within the 10-mile evacuation zone around the power plant.

Company whitewashes; state demands answers

Predictably, Entergy and the NRC both tried to downplay the seriousness of the tritium leak. They both noted that the groundwater beneath Indian Point is not upstream of any drinking water supplies. And while the water flows directly in the Hudson River, which then flows through New York City and Jersey City, Entergy claimed that "there is no health or safety consequence to the public."

The NRC parroted this line, claiming that the river would dilute the tritium into insignificance and noting that the amount released was far below federal limits.

"The more immediate concern is how did this happen?" Sheehan said.

The NRC and the state of New York have both launched investigations into the events surrounding the leak.

"I am deeply concerned," Cuomo wrote to officials at the state's departments of Health and Environmental Conservation. "Indian Point has experienced significant failure in its operation and maintenance. ... The levels of radioactivity reported this week are significantly higher than in past incidents. ... I am directing you to fully investigate this incident... to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, its causes, its potential impacts to the environment and public health, and how the release can be contained."

This is not Indian Point's first instance of groundwater contamination in recent years. In 2014, two monitoring wells registered higher-than-normal levels of tritium, probably due to an accidental release during a maintenance shutdown of the plant. And in 2009, a federal investigation was launched following the release of 100,000 gallons of tritium-contaminated water into the groundwater... and from there into the Hudson River.

In fact, such leaks are shockingly common among U.S. nuclear power plants. According to a 2009 investigation by The Associated Press, about 75 percent of the 65 nuclear power plants in the country have leaked tritium at least once.

Of course, that only counts the times they've been caught.

Sources for this article include:











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