Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites
Yesterday, Congressmen Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and Ranking Member on the Natural Resources Committee and Peter Welch, Chief Deputy Democratic Whip and member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a Government Accountability Office report entitled “Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Oversight of Underground Piping Systems Commensurate with Risk, but Proactive Measures Could Help Address Future Leaks”.
The report concludes that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and licensees “cannot be assured that underground safety-related pipes remain structurally sound without having information about degradation that has occurred. Without such assurance, the likelihood of future pipe failures cannot be as accurately assessed, and this increases the uncertainty surrounding the safety of the plants.”
Buried pipes at nuclear power plants carry water necessary to cool nuclear reactors. Other buried pipes carry diesel to fuel the emergency generators that power cooling systems in case of a blackout.
Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping. The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.
Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard… sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated offsite. But none is known to have reached public water supplies.
"Just as a power outage was the root cause of the core meltdowns at Fukushima, a failure of buried pipes that carry cooling water to the reactor cores could lead to a similar emergency here in the U.S." said Rep. Markey. "There would be no warning because no one ever checks the integrity of these underground pipes. These pipes have more leaks than the Vancouver Canucks goaltending. The NRC must require inspections of these pipes before they deteriorate instead of its current policy of crossing fingers and hoping for the best."
source: Congressmen Edward J. Markey