FORKED RIVER, NJ (April 30, 2009) - Environmental experts at Oyster Creek Generating Station have found and stopped two small leaks in underground pipes believed to be a main source of tritiated water found earlier this month in a concrete vault on plant property.
The leaks were near monitoring wells where elevated levels of tritium were found last week. Station experts are inspecting other underground pipes and a water storage tank nearby as an added measure.
The pipes are being replaced. The presence of tritium outside the pipes was discovered April 17 during routine environmental testing on plant property. Station environmental experts found the highest levels of tritium - about six million picocuries per liter - in new monitoring wells near a 10-foot by 30-foot area within the station's secure zone where the two pipes are located. The same monitoring wells showed no detectable tritium when sampled in March.
Oyster Creek installed five additional monitoring wells to further define the location and extent of the tritium. Daily samples of water from the plant's intake and discharge canals have shown no detectable levels of tritium.
"Through our extensive environmental program we found this water, reported it and are making the necessary repairs," said Tim Rausch, Oyster Creek's site vice president. "I want to re-emphasize that at no time has there been a threat to employee or public health or safety."
Tritium is a weak radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere and is found in virtually all surface water. Tritium is produced in higher concentrations in nuclear reactors and is typically discharged into the environment under strict federal guidelines. Concentrations are typically measured in picocuries, which is one trillionth of a curie.
Oyster Creek is about 60 miles east of Philadelphia in Ocean County, New Jersey. The plant produces 636 net megawatts of electricity at full power, enough electricity to supply 600,000 typical homes, the equivalent of all homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties.