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Radioactive leaks from U.S. reactors

August 28, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 35

Nineteen U.S. nuclear reactor sites report leaks of tritium or other radioactive material to groundwater, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry association. They report that tritium has leaked from 18 commercial nuclear power plants located in Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And a U.S. Geological Survey research reactor in Colorado has leaked small amounts of cobalt-60 to groundwater, NRC says. Only in one case has radioactivity migrated off site, NRC and NEI say. That was at the Braidwood nuclear power plant in Illinois (C&EN, June 26, page 30). In the past month, nuclear plant operators reported small leaks at Kewaunee and Prairie Island plants in Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively. These recent leaks were reported to local and state officials immediately under a new industry program to notify officials within one day of a radioactive leak, NEI officials say. Investigations under the same new industry program generated the list of leaking commercial nuclear power plants. With the exception of Braidwood, which had on-site groundwater contamination 14 times above an EPA drinking water standard, all contamination was below drinking water standards, industry and government officials say.


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