by Dave Zornow
NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Department of Health (DOH) to investigate a report of radioactive tritium found in the groundwater at the Indian Point Nuclear facility. “Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat,” said Cuomo. “This latest failure at Indian Point is unacceptable and I have directed [these departments] to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, cause and potential impacts to the environment and public health.”
Indian Point, a nuclear power plant located just east of Rockland County across the Hudson River in Buchanan, NY, supplies 30% of the electricity to New York City. The plant’s owner, Entergy, released a statement saying “there is no health or safety consequence to the public,” while acknowledging the levels of tritium found in the groundwater under the plant are “not in accordance with our standards.” Entergy is seeking to renew their federal license to operate Indian Point; Cuomo has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to block their renewal.
Letter from NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo to DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and DOH Commissioner Howard Zucker
I am deeply concerned to have learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water has recently leaked from operations at the Entergy Indian Point Energy Center (Indian Point) into groundwater at the site. This is not the first such release of radioactive water at Indian Point, nor is this the first time that Indian Point has experienced significant failure in its operation and maintenance. This failure continues to demonstrate that Indian Point cannot continue to operate in a manner that is protective of public health and the environment.
The levels of radioactivity reported this week are significantly higher than in past incidents. Three of forty monitoring wells registered alarming increases. In fact, one of the monitoring well increased nearly 65,000 percent from 12,300 picocuries per liter to over 8,000,000 picocuries per liter.
Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat. As such, I am directing you to fully investigate this incident and employ all available measures, including working with Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to determine the extent of the release, its likely duration, its causes, its potential impacts to the environment and public health, and how the release can be contained. We need to identify whether this incident could have been avoided by exercising reasonable care. We also need to know how a recurrence of this episode can be avoided by specific steps that Entergy should be taking.
Please report back at the completion of the investigation.
In 2012, an Environment New York study reported that if radioactive contaminants at Indian Point found their way into the region’s water supply, it would put the health of 11.3 million people at risk. The water shed exposed to possible Indian Point contaminants covers more than twice as many people as any other nuclear facility in the nation. “The danger of nuclear power is too close to home. Here in New York state, the drinking water for nearly 10 million people is too close to an active nuclear power plant,” said Eric Whalen, Field Organizer with Environment New York. “An accident like the one in Fukushima, Japan or a radioactive leak could spew cancer-causing radioactive waste into the drinking water of millions of New Yorkers.”
Statement from NYS Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee Regarding the Indian Point Groundwater Leak
I am concerned about the alarming increase in radioactive water leaking into the groundwater from three wells at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. My primary concern is the potential impact this tritium-contaminated water may have on the health and safety of those who live nearby but also the impact this radioactive water may have on public health and our environment.
This release of radioactive water, not the first release, nor the first time Entergy’s operation and maintenance has failed, only underscores the fact that Indian Point cannot continue to operate as it has without a full and thorough investigation of this incident.
I applaud Governor Cuomo for directing Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to fully investigate this incident and to work with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine the potential impacts of this release on the environment and public health.
I will be in contact with the appropriate state agencies regarding these serious issues and I will continue to express my vocal opposition to the re-licensing of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. — NYS Assemblymember Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern)
- Study: Indian Point Threatens Water Supply, 2/2/2012
- Indian Point Hearings: Risk vs Power, 6/2/2011
- It Takes A Village: Indian Point Roulette, 4/23/2011
- DEC Denies Indian Point H2O Quality Permit, 4/5/2010