Warrenville, Illinois - Exelon Nuclear will pay just over $0.5 million to fund local environmental projects around its Braidwood (Braceville, Illinois), Byron (Byron, Illinois) and Dresden (Morris, Illinois) nuclear plants as part of a settlement agreement with the Illinois Attorney General's office, the company announced today.
The half million dollar amount is part of a larger $1.176 million settlement that resolves the notices of violations at each of the plants for Exelon's self-reported tritiated water findings in 2005 and 2006. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have gone on record stating that the tritium concentration levels were never a health or safety issue to the public: IEPA Braidwood Fact Sheet, NRC Braidwood News Release NRC Press Release.
"We're glad that a substantial amount of the settlement will go to our local communities in support of valuable environmental projects," said Exelon's Chief Nuclear Officer Charles Pardee.
Today's settlement calls for the disbursements made by Exelon as follows, with $628,000 in civil penalties and $548,000 in supplemental environmental projects:
- Braidwood environmental payment in the amount of $392,000 to the Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve Restoration, and a civil penalty of $608,000
- Byron environmental payments totaling $29,000 to the Ogle and Lee County Soil and Water Conservation District for their Outdoor Stewardship Days ($11,000); the Ogle County Solid Waste Management Department ($7,500); and the Girl Scouts for its 23-acre prairie land restoration project ($10,500), and a civil penalty of $10,000
- Dresden environmental payment of $127,000 to the Illinois Conservation Foundation to fund recreational and historical rehabilitation projects along the Illinois & Michigan State Trail Complex in Grundy County, and a civil penalty of $10,000
In November 2005, Exelon Nuclear identified tritium in groundwater near its Braidwood Station. Following that initial finding, the company launched the first ever companywide comprehensive tritium environmental assessment and established robust environmental monitoring programs at its 11 nuclear plants. In June 2006, the company also began cleaning up groundwater with tritium near its Braidwood Station. To date, more than 90 percent of the tritiated water from the historical releases at that station has been removed.
"We promised the public we'd remediate the tritium that went beyond our plant boundaries. We established a system-wide groundwater monitoring program and kept everyone informed of our progress. We've kept those promises and gained valuable experience that we're using in our environmental management programs," said Pardee.
Exelon hosted more than 50 public meetings and information sessions over the past three years to keep the general public and local, state and federal officials and agencies informed of Exelon's monitoring program and clean-up efforts.
At a national level, the nuclear industry also followed suit in 2006 and established industry guidelines for an environmental and groundwater monitoring program, which is carefully tracked by the NRC.
Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen that produces a very weak level of radiation. It is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere when cosmic rays strike atmospheric gases and is produced in larger quantities as a by-product of the nuclear energy industry. When combined with oxygen, tritium has the same chemical properties as water. Tritium can be found at very low levels in nearly all water sources.