Yankee Leak Renews Debate Over Aging Plants

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says potentially dangerous levels of radioactive tritium – which can cause cancer – were found over the weekend in groundwater at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon.

The discovery brings to at least 27 the number of nuclear reactors in the U.S. with tritium leaks – out of 104 reactors in 31 states. That raises concerns about how it is escaping from the aging nuclear plants, possibly through deteriorating underground pipes.

The leaks come as the nuclear industry is seeking and obtaining federal license renewals, casting itself as a clean-green alternative to power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Tritium, a product of nuclear fusion, has been linked to cancer if ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin in large amounts.

Vermont Yankee officials say no tritium has been found in area drinking water supplies or in the Connecticut River.

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