Shumlin, Vermont Yankee at odds again over radionuclides

first_imgStrontium-90 in Fish The single positive result for Sr-90 in edible portions of fish from the Connecticut River north of Brattleboro within the range of background Sr-90 in edible portions of fish reported in a 1971 study, but is higher than the range in a 2009 NYSDEC study of fish collected in 2007. We have asked our contract laboratory to analyze another two fish also collected on June 9, 2010 to help verify this measurement. We are also making arrangements to obtain fish samples from locations on the Connecticut River further upstream of Vermont Yankee. Additional analysis will improve the confidence in our overall assessment.Sr-90 is found throughout our environment and in our diet. All humans have Sr-90 within their bodies. Given that Sr-90 is detected in fish collected from various locations, as well as many other media in the environment, we cannot associate low levels of Sr-90 in fish in the Connecticut River with Vermont Yankee-related radioactive materials without other supporting evidence. Other supporting evidence would include measuring Sr-90 in groundwater samples as well as measuring other nuclear power plant-related radionuclides in both fish and groundwater samples. To date, the Health Department Laboratory has not measured other nuclear power plant-related radionuclides in fish or groundwater samples.1Measurement of Strontium-90 (90Sr) and Other Radionuclides in Edible Tissues and Bone/Carapace of Fish and Blue Crabs from the Lower Hudson River, New York. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Fish, Wildlife and Marine Resources, Albany, NY, November 2009.Results of Hard-to-detect Analyses on Fish Collected in 2010-2011 from Connecticut River (Brattleboro/Vernon, VT) Strontium-90 in the EnvironmentLike many radionuclides, Sr-90 is found in many places in the environment. These background levels of radioactivity are from naturally occurring radioactive materials like carbon-14, potassium-40 and uranium-238, as well as purely human-made radionuclides like cobalt-60, strontium-90 and cesium-137. Some natural radionuclides were formed when the universe and the earth took shape billions of years ago. New natural radionuclides are also constantly building up as a result of cosmic radiation interactions with the earth. The human-made radionuclides come from the fairly constant release of very low quantities from medical and industrial users of radioactive materials, and from infrequent releases such as above-ground nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s, and the nuclear reactor accidents at Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011.One document the Health Department is using to interpret strontium-90 results is a publication by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a part of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Toxicological Profile for Strontium: http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/ToxProfiles/tp159.pdf.This(link is external) publication shows strontium-90 is a fairly constant part of the U.S. diet, with concentrations decreasing since above ground nuclear weapons tests were banned in 1963. The report also describes how Sr-90 gets into our bodies, from fruit juices, produce, milk and the overall human diet.Strontium-90 Fact Sheetshttp://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/strontium.html(link is external)(exit VDH)http://www.ead.anl.gov/pub/doc/Strontium.pdf(link is external)(exit VDH)Return to TopInvestigation SummaryJanuary 7 – Tritium Contamination DiscoveredVermont Yankee Nuclear Power station notifies the Vermont Department of Health that samples taken in November 2009 from a ground water monitoring well on site (identified as GZ-3) contained tritium. This finding signals an unintended release of radioactive material, and it means that other radioisotopes may have contaminated the environment.January 11 – Investigation BeginsVermont Yankee begins its own investigation to identify sources of the tritium and magnitude of contamination, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an oversight role. The Health Department organizes a team of state health and environmental experts to independently monitor, test and report on the investigation, and analyze possible risks and remediation actions.February 14 – Major Source of Leak FoundA pair of steam pipes inside the Advanced Off-Gas (AOG) pipe tunnel are found to be badly corroded and leaking nuclear steam. The floor drain of this concrete tunnel was found to be clogged with construction debris and mud, which caused condensate from the steam pipes to pool inside the tunnel and leak out at a failed joint. (AOG Building Schematic)May 14 – Soil Tests Confirm ContaminationSoil testing in the area around the leak has measured concentrations of radioisotopes consistent with a leak of nuclear reactor water. Steadily decreasing tritium concentrations in samples taken from the ground water monitoring wells drilled since January show the movement of tritium contamination in the ground water generally west to east into the Connecticut River. (Monitoring Well Location Map)May 29 – New Leak FoundVermont Yankee officials notify the Health Department about a new leak that was identified and stopped on May 28 at the AOG drain line. This occurred as the AOG system was being started up after its refueling outage.June – Ongoing InvestigationSince the leak was first reported, the Health Department has been closely monitoring and reporting on the investigation, has stepped up testing of environmental samples, and has been independently analyzing health risk. With assistance from the Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Emergency Management, and other state agencies, a team of health and environmental experts have been on site regularly as independent analysts.This work is ongoing as Vermont Yankee continues its investigation and study of other plant systems and components to identify, repair or remediate similar ‘extent of conditions’ that could result in a leak.Regular updates presented here are based on information from Vermont Yankee and Entergy officials, and from direct observations and monitoring during site inspections.See Investigation Archive for past updates and information. Northstar Vermont Yankee,The Vermont Department of Health Tuesday issued a report stating that it had detected strontium-90 in the edible portion of fish in the Connectict River upstream from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon. Governor Peter Shumlin again called for Vermont Yankee to operate extraction wells to test for radionuclides. Vermont Yankee responded that it has an extensive system of testing wells, none of which has detected strontium-90. The governor issued the following statement Tuesday following the strontium-90 report:”Today’s troubling news from the Vermont Department of Health is another example of Entergy Louisiana putting their shareholders’ profits above the welfare of Vermonters. This is further evidence of the need for extraction wells that I repeatedly called on Entergy Louisiana to set up and keep running last fall. I am asking my Health Department to keep a close eye on test results moving forward to determine the extent of any contamination that has reached the environment.”Laurence M Smith, Manager of Communications at Entergy Nuclear Vermont Yankee, issued the following statement: ‘We are aware that the Vermont Department of Health may have detected strontium-90 in some fish from the Connecticut River. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Vermont Yankee is the source for the strontium-90. We have 31 monitoring wells on site that are tested regularly. No groundwater sample from any well at Vermont Yankee has ever indicated the presence of strontium-90, or any other isotope other than tritium. We do not know why the Governor would suggest Vermont Yankee is the source, but there is no factual basis for that suggestion.’The Vermont Health Department report notes (see report below) that this is the first time Sr-90 has been detected in the edible portion of any fish in the Connecticut Riiver. It goes on to note that the location of that catch is 9 miles north of the Vermont Yankee discharge.The report states: “Fish caught near the Vermont Yankee discharge are most likely to be exposed to Vermont Yankee-related radioactivity, while fish caught upstream of the plant are most likely not to have been exposed to these radioactive materials.” Health Department Report:August 2, 2011 More Fish Samples AnalyzedAs a part of the Health Department’s comprehensive environmental surveillance around Vermont Yankee, we routinely collect fish from the Connecticut River for analysis. The Health Department Laboratory analyzes fish and other environmental samples such as air, water, milk, soil, vegetation and sediment for most radionuclides, including tritium and many gamma-emitting radioactive materials. The Health Department has also contracted with a commercial laboratory to conduct what are called ‘hard to detect’ analyses for the radionuclides strontium-90, iron-55 and nickel-63. Only a small number of laboratories in the U.S. are qualified to perform hard to detect analyses.Results from Hard to Detect AnalysesOn January 10, 2011, the Health Department reported the results of hard to detect analyses of four samples of fish taken in February, April and May 2010. These fish were analyzed by the Wadsworth Center Laboratory operated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.On July 26, 2011, we received results from our own contract laboratory for nine additional samples of fish samples taken since June 2010. No iron-55 or nickel-63 was detected in these samples. Similar to earlier results from the Wadsworth Laboratory, strontium-90 (Sr-90) was detected in most of the nine new samples.Results of all 13 samples analyzed to date are presented here (LINK). The fish are analyzed for hard to detect radionuclides in their edible portions (the flesh) and in their inedible portions (bones, head, scales and guts), and results are presented separately.One finding of Sr-90 just above the lower limit of detection in one fish sample is notable because it is the first time Sr-90 has been detected in the edible portion of any of our fish samples. While the scientific literature includes evidence that edible portions of fish can retain Sr-90, this finding in the Connecticut River requires more sample data so we can better understand what it means. For this purpose, the Department of Health has asked that additional samples of fish obtained on June 9, 2010 be analyzed by our contract lab. There are additional samples from other dates pending analysis at the contract lab, and more samples are being shipped from Vermont Yankee. The Health Department is also working to obtain additional fish for testing much farther upstream in the Connecticut River.Where the Fish were CaughtResults are also presented by two catch locations. The first is called ‘Near VY Discharge’. These fish were caught in the Vernon Pond where the plant discharges water both from its discharge canal and from the contaminated groundwater on site. The second location is called ‘Upstream of VY’. These fish were caught near the Route 9 bridge north of Brattleboro and about nine miles upstream of Vermont Yankee. Fish caught near the Vermont Yankee discharge are most likely to be exposed to Vermont Yankee-related radioactivity, while fish caught upstream of the plant are most likely not to have been exposed to these radioactive materials. However, fish may move around and nine miles upstream may not be enough distance to keep a particular fish from swimming down to the Vermont Yankee discharge area.How the Fish were Caught and AnalyzedFish are caught by a method called electro-fishing. An electric charge is introduced into the river water and stunned fish float to the surface. Environmental technicians collect the largest fish, which are most likely to have taken up radioactivity from the water over time. The collection of fish is then split, with half sent to Vermont Yankee’s contract laboratory and half to the Health Department’s Laboratory. Some of the Health Department’s split are shipped directly to the Health Department’s contract laboratory for hard to detect analysis. Individual fish are not cut in half and split between the two destinations. Instead, whole fish of similar species and size are sent to each destination.Analytical resultsInedible Portion Analytical Results (bones, head, scales, guts)Four of 13 inedible portion samples were measured and found to have no strontium-90 (Sr-90) above the lower limit of detection (LLD). Nine of 13 inedible samples of fish contained Sr-90, ranging from 28 picocuries per kilogram (pCi/kg) to 255 pCi/kg. The range of Sr-90 results in inedible portions of fish is within the range of background for Sr-90 found in fish studies. A New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) study published in 20091reported that Sr-90 in inedible portions of fish obtained in 2007 from the Catskill Region of the Hudson River in New York averaged 120 to 360 pCi/kg, depending on the species of fish. This segment of the Hudson River is between 65 and 83 miles upstream of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Another study conducted in 1971 by NYSDEC and cited in the NYSDEC 2009 report measured background Sr-90 concentrations in Lake Ontario from 89 to 3,516 pCi/kg, again depending on the species of fish.Edible Portion Results (flesh)Twelve of 13 edible portions of fish had strontium-90 (Sr-90) results that were less than the lower limit of detection (LLD), while one of 13 sample sets had an edible portion result of 58 (+ 35) pCi/kg Sr-90. This value is close to the lower limit of detection of 47 pCi/kg. The fish in this sample were caught on June 9, 2010 about nine miles upstream of Vermont Yankee. This fish sample also had the highest Sr-90 concentration in inedible portions (255 pCi/kg). The other eight positive samples of inedible portions of fish had Sr-90 concentrations between 28 and 101 pCi/kg. The 2009 NYSDEC study of fish obtained in the Catskill Region of the Hudson River in New York in 2007 had no Sr-90 above the lower limit of detection in fish, but had one result for blue crab at 8 pCi/kg. The 1971 NYSDEC study of Lake Ontario fish species resulted in edible portions measuring less than the lower limit of detection up to 62 pCi/kg.Health Department Samples as Compared to BackgroundPortion Analyzed for Sr-90VDH 2010 Analytical ResultNY DEC 2007 Background1NY DEC 1971 Background1Inediblecenter_img 89 ‘ 3,516 pCi/kgEdiblelast_img

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