NY to probe "radioactive tritium-contaminated water" leak at Indian Point nuclear facility

New York will investigate high levels of radioactive contamination found in groundwater at Indian Point Energy Center, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

"Radioactive tritium-contaminated water" leaked into groundwater at the nuclear facility, and caused "alarming levels" of radioactivity to be found at three of the 40 monitoring wells at the nuclear facility.

Governor Cuomo and his family live in Westchester County, the same county where Indian Point is located.

In his statement, Cuomo says one of the wells reported a 65,000% spike in radioactivity. All of the data comes from Entergy Corporation, the plant's owner and operator.

From the governor's statement:

"Yesterday I learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility. The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well's radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent. The facility reports that the contamination has not migrated off site and as such does not pose an immediate threat to public health.

"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.

"This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable and I have directed Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause and potential impacts to the environment and public health."

Indian Point Nuclear Plant.

Indian Point Nuclear Plant.

Indian Point's owner Entergy released a statement on the leak. Snip:

"Recent samples from our ongoing comprehensive groundwater monitoring program identified elevated levels of tritium in three monitoring wells out of several dozen at Indian Point. While elevated tritium in the ground onsite is not in accordance with our standards, there is no health or safety consequence to the public, and releases are more than a thousand times below federal permissible limits. The tritium did not affect any source of drinking water onsite or offsite.

While the effect of these elevated values is less than one-tenth of one percent of federal reporting guidelines, Entergy made voluntary notification to the NRC, state agencies and key stakeholders.

The issue of tritium in the ground is a well-studied issue, including by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), which has previously concluded historic leaks of tritium to the ground at Indian Point have no effect on public health or safety.

Tritium, a radioactively weak isotope of hydrogen, likely reached the ground at Indian Point during recent work activities. Indian Point installed groundwater monitoring wells onsite to enable early detection of any elevated levels of radionuclides in the ground.

Related coverage at the New York Times and USA Today.