Source Of Tritium Leak At Vermont Yankee May Have Been Found

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The source of the radioactive tritium that’s been leaking from the plant may have been found early this morning.

VPR’s Ross Sneyd has that report.

(Sneyd) A pipe tunnel carrying a drain line was unearthed and crews may have found what they’ve spent weeks searching for.

A substantial crack was discovered both in the concrete tunnel and in a plastic pipe that surrounds and carries the drain line.

Radioactive materials besides tritium were found in the surrounding soil. And Bill Irwin, who is the state’s radiological health chief, says that’s key.

(Irwin) "This is actual indication of some kind of leakage has occurred here. Now the exact location of the leak is a bit unknown. Until they do actual leak testing with some water to replicate the conditions … they won’t know that this is actually the path of leakage."

(Sneyd) That testing will take place this weekend. Radioactive steam has been isolated and is no longer flowing through the pipes that are suspected of leaking.

Irwin says crews will continue excavating because there could be other potential leaks.

In the meantime, the Vermont Public Service Board has formally opened a case into whether the plant should be ordered to shut down immediately.

The board’s order came at the request of the environmental group Conservation Law Foundation. Sandra Levine is with CLF.

(Levine) "This shows the importance of the state taking action to address the problems at Vermont Yankee … There are clear violations of Vermont law and those should be stopped and the plant should be stopped until the leaks are repaired."

(Sneyd) The board didn’t give a timetable for when it will rule in the case.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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