Monday, September 22, 2008

500,000 gallons of RADIOACTIVE water into the Hudson River?

"By the end of the year, Indian Point officials expect to have diluted the 500,000 gallons and released them into the Hudson River according to federally permitted procedures set up to protect the surrounding habitat."

Nuclear plant moves waste to tackle leaks

By Greg Clary
The Journal News • September 22, 2008

BUCHANAN - Workers have removed spent nuclear fuel rods from Indian Point 1 and expect to drain 500,000 gallons of radioactive water from the dead reactor’s storage pool by the end of the year.

The move should end strontium 90 contamination at the plant, company and regulatory officials say.

“We’ve said from the beginning that an essential part of the strategy for reducing additional contamination was removing the fuel and draining the pool,” said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“It’s believed to be the primary source of strontium contamination at the site.”

Indian Point is the only nuclear site in the country that is leaking strontium 90, a highly radioactive isotope.

Sheehan said Indian Point 1, which operated from 1962 to 1974, has had a long history of leakage, and plant officials had thought a curtain drain system around the huge pool was catching any radioactive water and directing it to proper disposal points.

Another leak, of less radioactive tritium, was found at Indian Point 2 in August 2005, and as the company drilled dozens of new monitoring wells, strontium 90 started showing up in high levels.

Company officials are confident Indian Point 1 is the source of the strontium 90 because when they began filtering out 98 percent of the isotope from the spent fuel pool, the levels in nearby wells dropped quickly.

“The sooner they remove that source, the better,” Sheehan said.

By the end of the year, Indian Point officials expect to have diluted the 500,000 gallons and released them into the Hudson River according to federally permitted procedures set up to protect the surrounding habitat.

On Friday, the last load of 32 fuel rods - a fifth of the 160 moved - was carried in a dry cask storage canister by a tank-like machine aptly named “The Crawler.”

A team of 16 people worked to transport the spent fuel from the reactor to a storage pad about a quarter-mile away, where the Crawler lowered the 125-ton canister into its designated spot.

“It’s still spent fuel; let’s be clear,” Chris English, superintendent of Indian Point 1, said as he watched the move. “But it’s not as active as fresh fuel coming out of an active reactor.”

Only about 10 percent of the rods’ fuel - burned to create electricity - is used up during the process, leaving potential energy sitting in the canisters for as long as it takes until the remaining radioactive isotopes decay or other options are developed.

“Future generations are going to come to pick this stuff up and say: ‘What the heck were they thinking?’” English said. “Because there’s a lot of value here.”

Until then, however, it’s considered nuclear waste and will remain onsite until the federal government builds the Yucca Mountain’s repository or an alternate.

Though France and other countries are recycling nuclear waste using a method called reprocessing, there are no U.S. facilities doing that and little movement to do it here.

“This is a big milestone for us,” said Donald Mayer, the Entergy Nuclear official in charge of Indian Point’s efforts to control the groundwater contamination. “What this ultimately does is take all of (the strontium 90) away.”




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