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Illinois nuclear reactors – continuing radioactive leaks

Problems persist a decade after discovery of chronic radioactive leaks Chicago Sun Times, 11/19/2017, Brett Chase and Madison Hopkins | Better Government Association More than a decade after the discovery of chronic leaks led to national outrage, a $1.2 million government settlement and a company vow to guard against future accidents, an investigation by a government watchdog group found.

Since 2007, there have been at least 35 reported leaks, spills or other accidental releases in Illinois of water contaminated with radioactive tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power production and a carcinogen at high levels, a Better Government Association review of federal and state records shows.

No fines were issued for the accidents, all of which were reported by the company.

The most recent leak of 35,000 gallons occurred over two weeks in May and June at Exelon’s Braidwood plant, southwest of Chicago. The same facility was the focus of a community panic in the mid-2000s after a series of accidents stirred debate over the safety of aging nuclear plants.

A 2014 incident at Exelon’s Dresden facility in Grundy County involved the release of about 500,000 gallons of highly radioactive water. Contamination was later found in the plant’s sewer lines and miles away in the Morris, Ill., sewage treatment plant……..

Industry watchdogs and government whistleblowers contend oversight is compromised by a cozy relationship between companies and the NRC.

Government regulators concede they must balance the safety needs of aging plants, which require more maintenance, versus ordering cost-prohibitive upgrades at facilities that inherently are just a slip-up away from catastrophe.

No player in the nuclear industry is bigger than Exelon, the Chicago-based energy company that last year reported $31 billion in revenue and operates 14 nuclear plants in Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Five of the six Illinois plants reported leaks over the last decade, records show. Clinton, in DeWitt County, had no leaks and Byron, in Ogle County, reported only one that contained low levels of radioactivity…….

At least seven of the 35 documented accidents since 2007 involved contamination of groundwater. Other contamination was found in sewers and other water systems where it isn’t supposed to be………

The BGA investigation also found:

  • Of the 35 documented incidents, 27 occurred at Dresden. Following the big 2014 leak, which emanated from an aboveground storage tank, Exelon asked a state inspector whether the public would have access to the incident report under open records laws, a state report showed.
  • An NRC report on the 2007 Quad Cities leak noted radiation levels went “well beyond that seen anywhere else in the industry” and that plant staff estimated the leak had been active for years before it was discovered.
  • In 2010, Exelon’s Marseilles generating plant in LaSalle County reported a spill from a storage tank, initially estimated at more than 150 gallons but later classified as “unknown.” Groundwater tritium tests later showed levels 59 times the EPA’s drinking water limit. Exelon said no tritium left the plant’s boundaries, but records show plant workers continued to monitor a body of highly contaminated groundwater sitting on plant property at least five years after the accident.
  • In 2009, Dresden reported another hole in a storage tank led to a leak of as much as 272,000 gallons of radioactive water. Onsite groundwater testing showed levels of tritium 160 times higher than allowed under federal standards for drinking water.

This story was provided to The Associated Press by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Better Government Association of Chicago: http://www.bettergov.org   https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/investigation-radioactive-leaks-at-illinois-nuclear-plants/

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November 19, 2017 - Posted by | incidents, USA

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