FORKED RIVER, NJ (April 17, 2009) - Environmental experts at the Oyster Creek Generating Station confirmed Friday that tritium found in a concrete vault near the plant’s turbine building on Wednesday is confined to the plant site.
Plant engineers and environmental experts working to determine the source found elevated levels of tritium in a single monitoring well near an outdoor “condensate storage tank”. The engineering and environmental teams are narrowing their investigation to a relatively small area close to the storage tank to determine if it, or pipes connected to it, are the source of the tritiated water.
“We found this tritiated water, reported it and are working quickly to locate the source,” said Tim Rausch, Oyster Creek site vice president. “At no time has there been a threat to public or employee health and safety from this finding,” Rausch said.
Clean up activities have begun, and Exelon will report the progress of those activities to government regulators and the public as those activities are completed.
Water samples from the discharge canal and six of seven monitoring wells were analyzed and showed no detectable levels of tritium. The one monitoring well with positive results - a 20-feet-deep sampling pipe near the storage tank - contained tritium levels up to 4.46 million picocuries per liter of water. A picocurie is one trillionth of a curie.
The plant maintains an extensive environmental monitoring program, including routine water sampling from 32 on-site dedicated monitoring wells for the potential of unusual levels of tritium in the environment. The affected well was last tested the week of March 10 and showed no detectable levels of tritium, indicating the leak most likely initiated recently.
The tritium in the concrete vault, which was discovered in routine environmental monitoring Wednesday, likely entered the vault space by following underground electrical conduits that pass near the condensate tank and enter the vault.
Tritium is a low-level radiation emitter that is used commercially to make luminous dials and instruments, as a source of light for exit and safety signs, as a tracer for biochemical research and in ground water transport measurements, among other uses. A tritium fact sheet from the U.S. EPA can be downloaded at http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/tritium.html
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.