Entergy explains tritium to public

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BRATTLEBORO -- Entergy presented a tritium science fair Monday in an effort to explain in plain English the basics of its investigation into the leak of tritiated water at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, the dangers of tritium and what plant engineers are doing to fix the situation.

"This is an opportunity to look at what we've been looking at," said Michael Colomb, Yankee's site vice president.

The science fair was also a chance for Yankee employees and contractors to explain in "non-engineer terms" how the plant operates, where the tritiated water came from and what they have been doing to remediate the contamination, he said.

"Engineer speak is not always the best way to speak to the public," said Colomb.

He described the science fair as a chance for people to learn about the tritium investigation.

"We've learned a lot," said Colomb, and this was a way to share that with the public.

The presentations not only included descriptions of the advanced off gas system, which was determined to be the source of the leak, but also models of the reactor vessel and the turbine building, a description and map of the monitoring wells, how the strata beneath the plant affect groundwater flow and examples of everyday devices -- such as smoke detectors and exit signs -- with radioactive materials in them.

Since the contamination was discovered, Entergy has increased the number of monitoring wells at the plant from three to more than 20.

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Even when the tritiated water is removed from the ground, said Jeff Hardy, Yankee's chemistry manager, it will continue to monitor the groundwater in all the wells.

Those that are located downgrade, in the direction of the groundwater flow away from the plant, will continue to be tested on a daily or weekly basis during remediation, he said.

After remediation, those downgrade wells will be tested on a monthly basis, said Hardy.

Wells located north and west of the plant, the direction from which the groundwater flows toward the plant, will be tested less frequently, he said.

John Deans of Greenpeace USA field organizer and Chad Simmons of Safe & Green were on hand "to counter the misrepresentations" being made by Entergy, said Simmons.

"Tritium is only part of the story," said Simmons. "The real issue is systemic mismanagement and Entergy's reluctance to deal with the mismanagement."

"This company is out of touch with Vermonters," said Deans, who said Entergy has had three months since the leak to explain the issue in layman's terms. "This is too little too late."

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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