FORKED RIVER, NJ (June 30, 2009) - After finding and fixing two tritium leaks discovered in mid-April, environmental and technical experts at Oyster Creek Generating Station continue to aggressively pursue excavation of additional piping to ensure it is robust.
Site workers are excavating an area around a 24-feet-long, one-inch water line near the turbine building to visually inspect the pipe. "There are no indications that the one-inch line is leaking, but we are going the extra step to be 100 percent certain," said Mike Massaro, Oyster Creek Site Vice President. "As such, we will excavate the entire line."
A work crew will spend about a week excavating about 1,500 cubic feet of soil around the pipe largely by hand.
Water samples continue to be taken from test wells, the station's intake structure, discharge tunnel and discharge canal near the Route 9 Bridge. One intake sample on June 12 showed detectable levels of tritium - 16,600 picocuries per liter - though none of more than 50 daily tests before or since at the same location has showed a detectable level of tritium. "Though we firmly believe this is an anomaly," Massaro said, "we continue to rigorously pursue our schedule of sampling."
The intake structure, adjacent to the intake canal, brings water into the plant for cooling purposes and is then released into the discharge canal. No discharge tunnel or discharge canal samples showed any detectable levels of tritium.
"We saw an anomaly in one test, and we immediately retested the same location," Massaro said. "The subsequent sample showed no detectable levels of tritium. We will continue to monitor for any potential source of tritiated water to be completely sure.
"At no time during this analysis has there been a threat to public or employee health and safety," Massaro said. "We are committed to a process that ensures that we understand the integrity of our systems that handle tritium, and that we have satisfied ourselves, our stakeholders and the community that our equipment has a high degree of reliability."
On April 15, as part of its environmental program, Oyster Creek personnel tested water in a concrete vault on site and received higher than expected levels of tritium. Since then, Oyster Creek has replaced two pipes that were found to have leaks that are believed to be the source of the tritiated water.
Tritium is a weak radioactive isotope of hydrogen that is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere and is found in surface water. It is produced in higher concentrations in nuclear reactors and is typically discharged into the environment under strict federal guidelines.
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.