The Indian Point nuclear power plant has a long history of accidental radioactive leaks and spills: spent fuel pools at the plant housing toxic nuclear waste have been leaking since the 1990s; corroded buried pipes have sprung radioactive leaks; tanks have spilled hundreds of gallons radioactively contaminated water; and malfunctioning valves and pumps have leaked radionuclide-laden water. [Indian Point Radioactive Leaks Timeline] As Indian Point continues to age and degrade, more inadvertent radioactive leaks are inevitable.
Decades of accidental radiological releases at Indian Point plant have resulted in two extensive plumes of contamination in the groundwater beneath the plant, which leach to the Hudson River. Given Entergy’s plan to let the contamination sit and attenuate instead of extracting it, the radioactive plumes will continue to pollute critical nearby ecosystems of the river for decades if not centuries.
After “discovering” leaks from spent fuel pools in 2005, the owner of Indian Point, Entergy, conducted an investigation and uncovered these large plumes. Entergy’s initial investigation into groundwater contamination at Indian Point resulted in a hydrogeologic report in 2007, and, since that time, Entergy has been generating quarterly groundwater monitoring reports relating to the status of radioactivity in the groundwater. These reports memorialize the results of quarterly sampling data, and contain information about the status of the contamination plumes as well as information about any new accidental leaks or spills that have or may affect the contamination.
You can find these reports Entergy has generated (below), which were provided to Riverkeeper as a result of Riverkeeper’s ongoing involvement in legal proceedings about the proposed relicensing of Indian Point. Entergy will continue to produce these reports as long as Indian Point keeps operating. As a result of negotiations between Entergy and Riverkeeper, Entergy will establish a public website dedicated to the timely release of Entergy’s quarterly groundwater monitoring reports and/or groundwater sampling data (July-September 2013). This forced transparency will hold Entergy’s feet to the fire, and guarantee that the public will no longer be kept in the dark about, or surprised by, accidental radiological releases from Indian Point. This is important for ensuring the health and safety of all New Yorkers who swim, fish and boat in the Hudson.
Our negotiations also resulted in Entergy agreeing to conduct additional downstream fish sampling in the Hudson River in the vicinity of Haverstraw Bay, a designated significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat. This measure will help illuminate the potential long-term effects of radiological leaks from Indian Point on the aquatic ecosystem of the Hudson River over time.
These measures are steps in the right direction toward Entergy rectifying the environmental harm posed by Entergy’s failure to prevent or adequately address accidental radiological leaks at Indian Point. In addition, Riverkeeper continues to advocate for an actual clean up of the contamination as well as for adequate and long-term environmental impact analyses of the radioactive contamination coming from Indian Point.
At Riverkeeper’s insistence and after years of obfuscation, Entergy has finally started posting quarterly groundwater monitoring results on its website here:
Strontium-90 (Sr-90) is the latest of several radioactive isotopes, including tritium, cobalt, and cesium, to be discovered in groundwater wells or soil samples since a leak from the Indian Point 2 spent fuel pool was discovered in August 2005.
Sr-90, one of the most toxic byproducts of nuclear power generation, is produced as a fission byproduct of uranium and plutonium. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the isotope can enter the food chain when released into the environment. Human ingestion of strontium-90 – either by drinking water or eating contaminated food products – is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract and concentrates in bone mass. Exposure to strontium-90 increases the risk of numerous diseases including bone cancer, leukemia, and soft tissue cancer.
According to scholars at Northern Arizona University, “Radioisotopes such as strontium-90, which behaves like calcium, is accumulated by organisms and passed along a food chain magnifying with each link in the food chain. Consequently, top carnivores can accumulate very high concentrations of this radioactive isotope, even if only very low concentrations are released to the environment.”