WASHINGTON, D.C.—A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission task force today released recommendations for groundwater protection at commercial nuclear energy facilities. The Nuclear Energy Institute’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, Tony Pietrangelo, made the following comments about the task force report.
“The industry has taken responsible action to maintain public safety and protect the environment at nuclear energy facilities. In recent years, we have significantly upgraded groundwater monitoring and reporting programs, and we are taking responsible action to clean up leaks from our facilities into groundwater when they occur.
“We take seriously our responsibility as stewards of the environment and as neighbors in the communities in which we operate. Unplanned releases clearly are not acceptable and are not in line with the safety standards at our facilities. Our industry has a zero tolerance standard for unplanned releases into groundwater, and we have launched two separate industrywide programs in 2006 and 2009 to strengthen our commitment in this area. Plants that detect unintended releases of tritium identify the sources, correct it and implement measures to prevent a recurrence. In some cases, companies are replacing pipe or altering its installation so it is easier to monitor for leaks.
“While unplanned releases of tritium and other radioisotopes have occurred at U.S. nuclear energy facilities in recent years, these leaks have not posed a risk to public health, according to analyses by state health departments and the NRC task force report. Spanning the 40-plus years of commercial nuclear power plant operations, there haven’t been any instances in which tritium has caused or posed a significant exposure to the public.
“The industry will continue to meet its commitments outlined in 2006 and 2009 programs regarding groundwater protection and public notification if there are unplanned releases at our facilities. We also will work with the NRC as it considers the recommendations developed by the agency’s task force.”