FORKED RIVER, NJ (April 16, 2009) - Plant workers at Oyster Creek notified state and federal authorities late Wednesday that they had found tritiated water inside a concrete vault at the plant. The vault is within the secured area of the plant site.
The water appeared to be contained in the vault. It was pumped into storage containers and will be processed through the plant's waste processing system. Additional sampling will be done this week to verify that the tritium was contained.
"While this was not a public or employee safety issue it is an example of our low threshold for environmental detection and reporting and, most importantly, our commitment to transparency with our neighbors in our operations," said Tim Rausch, site Vice President, Oyster Creek Station.
Tritium is a weak radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is found naturally in surface water. It is produced in higher concentrations in nuclear reactors and is typically discharged into the environment under strict federal guidelines. At the concentrations found Wednesday, a cup of the water in the vault would have about the same radiological dose as five cups of orange juice (from radioactive potassium-40 found in juice).
The vault, with concrete walls and floor, houses electrical lines and equipment. It is located approximately fifty yards from the plant turbine building. Plant engineers are working to determine how the tritium might have entered the space. Initial analysis of the water samples showed slightly greater than 100,000 picocuries of tritium per liter.
The plant maintains an extensive environmental monitoring program, including routine water sampling for the potential of unusual levels of tritium in the environment. Laboratory tests of 32 on-site monitoring wells as recently as March 11th showed no detectable levels of tritium in the groundwater near the plant.
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 to all homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties combined.