The Indian Point nuclear plant in New York reported a radioactive spill that began on February 5, 2016. Since then, groundwater tests conducted directly at the plant site showed a 65 000% increase in radioactivity, media reported.
The water leak happened when a drain overflowed as the workers were transferring highly radioactive water during a maintenance exercise. Under normal circumstances, a sump pump would filter the water into another system, however, it seems it was out of order at the time of the incident, and the water seeped into the groundwater instead.
It is still not familiar how much water has spilled, but analysis revealed radioactivity levels surpassing 8 million picocuries per liter, the highest regulators recorded so far at the Indian Point nuclear plant. Normal radioactivity levels measure around 12 300 picocuries per liter.
Video credit: NY Daily News
Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the state's environmental conservation and health departments to conduct an immediate investigation.
"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 stated on February 6.
"We don't believe there's any concern for members of the public. First of all, this water's not going anywhere immediately ... and, again, because of the dilution factor, you wouldn't even be able to detect it were you to take a direct sample," said Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The contamination remained contained at the site of the incident, according to Cuomo, however, the groundwater will likely slowly progress to the Hudson River. According to experts, the water usually doesn't proceed further than the middle of the river, and will most likely be so diluted that radioactivity levels will be almost undetectable.
Contaminated groundwater would likely slowly make its way to the Hudson River, Sheehan said, but research has shown that water usually ends up in the middle of the river and is so diluted that the levels of radioactivity are nearly undetectable.
A spokesman for Entergy Corp., the New Orleans-based company that operates Indian Point, said the overflow was "likely the cause of the elevated tritium levels."
"Tritium in the ground is not in accordance with our standards, but I think people should keep in mind there's no health or safety consequences. There is no impact on drinking water on or off site," said Jerry Nappi, a spokesman for Entergy Corp., the New Orleans company responsible for operating the nuclear plant in New York.
In 2009, about 100 000 gallons of tritium-contaminated water entered the groundwater supplies and heightened tritium levels were also detected in two monitoring wells at the Indian Point nuclear plant in 2014. According to the authorities, this contamination was likely attributed to an earlier maintenance shutdown.
65 nuclear plant sites reported tritium leak in 2009, according to the investigation performed by the Associated Press.
Featured image credit: NY Daily News