The NRC’s Neil Sheehan has confirmed leaks involving 27 of 104 licensed US reactors, and says that probably doesn’t account for all of them. At Yankee, Oyster Creek and elsewhere, rotting pipes are the likeliest culprit, but no one is 100% certain.
The epidemic has escalated public dismay. Vermont state Representative Tony Klein, chair of House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, says that*** “when you have public officials that the public depends on for their health and welfare making casual statements that a radioactive substance is not harmful to you, I think that’s ludicrous.”
For decades the Encylopedia Britannica, National Academy of Sciences and other primary scientific bodies have confirmed that no dose of radiation, no matter how small, can ever be deemed perfectly safe. “There is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” says Richard R. Monson, associate dean for professional education and professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Last year at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek, tritium was reported leaking a second time shortly after Exelon got it a 20-year license extension. Entergy’s Pilgrim reactor, at Plymouth, Massachusetts, has recently leaked tritium into the ground.
Like a decayed flotilla of rickety steamers, at least 27 of America’s 104 aging atomic reactors are known to be leaking radioactive tritium, which is linked to cancer if inhaled or ingested through the throat or skin.
The fallout has been fiercest at Vermont Yankee, where a flood of cover-ups has infuriated and terrified near neighbors who say the reactor was never meant to operate more than 30 years, and must now shut.
In 2007 one of Yankee’s 22 cooling towers simply collapsed due to rot.
Now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed tritium levels in a monitoring well at Vernon to be 3.5 times the federal safety standard. The leaks apparently came from underground pipes whose very existence was recently denied by VY officials in under-oath testimony at a public hearing