The owner of Indian Point Energy Center is investigating what caused a sharp increase of radioactive bits in the groundwater near its nuclear reactors in Buchanan.
Samples taken from monitoring wells in April showed a spike in the presence of tritium, a weak radioactive form of hydrogen. Samples are taken regularly and the levels have since dropped, though they haven’t returned to previous levels, according to Entergy Corp., which owns the power plant.
Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi said the company hadn’t ruled out any possible causes for the increased level but that officials did not believe there was a continuous leak in any of its storage tanks.
“We believe this was a one-time event,” he told the Business Journal. There are no health or worker safety risks from the increase, according to Nappi, who said recent levels are estimated at less than one-tenth of a percent of permissible levels by nuclear regulatory standards.
A trend of increased tritium levels can mean a leak of water from spent fuel pools, where rods are stored after being used in a nuclear reaction. Indian Point, under a previous owner, saw a leak in its spent fuel pool for Indian Point 1, a reactor that was retired in 1974. That leak has since been fixed and is a separate issue, Entergy said.
The monitoring pools were installed as a way to monitor future leaks and oversee what material was making its way into the ground around the reactor. The current sampling showed spikes from two wells near Indian Point 2, which was recently refueled and temporarily shut down during the process for maintenance. There is speculation the materials may have leaked out during that time.
Nappi said the company was continuing to monitor groundwater and looking to conclusively determine what caused the tritium increase in the spring.
Entergy is looking to relicense Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 for another 20 years amid opposition from environmental groups and politicians including Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The power plant has drawn opposition due to its location on the Hudson River, 30 miles outside of New York City and within 50 miles of the homes of 17 million people.
The application process began in 2007, making the current relicensing review the longest in U.S. history.