Environmental Advocacy

Key Points made by Panelists and Presenters at Indian Point Technical Briefing and Round Table
Friday March 2, 2007

Clearwater, the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition and Pace Academy for the Environment convened a Technical Briefing and Roundtable on the Indian Point Leaks, at Pace Pleasantville. With approximately 150 people in the attendance, the event included nationally renowned experts in the fields of hydrogeology, ecology, public health and regulatory issues, as well as members of the public and media, and over 40 elected officials. This is a summary of key points made by the presenters.
 
PDFArticle from Clearwater Navigator

Paul Gunter(Nuclear Information and Resource Service)

  • The full impact on groundwater and extent of the radioactive leaks at Indian Point remain unknown.
  • Information remains inaccessible to the general public.
  • “We can no longer trivialize these accidents as the industry continues to allow them to persist.”
  • There is evidence of broader site contamination as a result of experimental cleanup efforts of groundwater contamination around Unit 2, where recovery well pumping operations could be spreading Unit 1 groundwater contamination with Strontium-90 instead of cleaning up the situation.
  • Contaminants are likely draining through fractured bedrock beneath the facility and seeping into groundwater.

Sergio Smiriglio (Hydrologist)
 
PDFPresentation

  • Water moves from high to low points, and the facility sits at a higher point than both the Hudson and the surrounding area. Contaminants will flow into the major groundwater flow, then into the Hudson River.
  • Coarser material surrounds the fracture sites, which allows for higher velocity water movement.
  • Fractures could contain contaminated water, thereby acting as a secondary pathway flowing under the Hudson River.

Dr. Bob Houghton (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory)
 
PDFPresentation

  • The river flow is dominated by the tides which produce extreme upstream/downstream flow reversals that are much larger than the mean flow.
  • There is a fortnightly variation of the tidal strength, the spring-neap cycle, which affects this flow and the resultant mixing of the water column.
  • In the estuarine portion of the river, below Bear Mountain, there is a mean upstream flow at depth associated with the wedge of salt water coming up from New York Bay.
  • The resulting stratification modulates the vertical mixing and the strength of the mean flow in the surface and bottom portions of the river.
  • Thus mixing and circulation in the river changes constantly depending on environmental conditions, e.g., the tidal strength and the flow of freshwater from upstream.

Barbara Youngberg(NYS DEC)

  • The radioactive materials at the Indian Point facility are regulated by federal agencies (NRC), but DEC was invited to participate in the investigation of the leaks.
  • The DEC analyzed samples from most of the 36 new sample wells.
  • The DEC sampling includes on-site wells, private wells, ground water, and surface water.
  • DEC has confirmed that onsite water is contaminated.
  • Cesium-137 has been found in Hudson River sediments but at the same concentrations we would expect to see it elsewhere in the state, so, we cannot conclude that it is due to the facility.
  • Background traces of Sr90 have been found in off-site wells, but also cannot be directly attributed to the Indian Point facility.
  • Detectable levels of Sr90 were found in fish samples. The results were inconclusive; these levels could be due to Sr90 in the environment from previous above ground (also often referred to as “atmospheric”) testing of nuclear weapons.
  • DEC will expand fish sampling to include more samples from different species, and from a greater range of locations.
  • DEC has found no evidence of significant radioactive contamination off site.

Dr. Ward Stone(NYS DEC)

  • I am new to the case and learning about the potential contamination of fish and wildlife species, but plan to play a role in the design and interpretation of the next biota sampling.
  • The fish sampling to date has been highly inadequate. If more thorough biota sampling had been done, the radionuclides that are leaving or have left Indian Point and gaining entry into the biota would already be determined. More species and types of biota are needed and should be part of upcoming sampling.
  • People relate to the accumulation of radioactive pollutants in biota since they are living things in the local ecosystem.
  • DEC will expand testing to include studying individual fish over a longer period of time, caging fish, and expanding biota sampled which may include shellfish, frogs, turtles and other wildlife.

Dr. Adela Salame-Alfie (NYS DOH)
 
PDFPresentation

  • DOH explores the effects of radiation on human health, by looking at the pathways, doses, transport, and sources.
  • DOH surveys possible pathways: air, water, fish, and external radiation.

David Lochbaum (Union of Concerned Scientists) and Phillip Musegaas (Riverkeeper)
 
PDFPresentation

  • Tritium stays in the body for less time than Sr90; therefore, efforts should be focused more on Sr90.
  • Nuclear plants must be designed to limit and monitor the amount of liquids and gasses they release into the environment.
  • Nuclear plants must keep track of all contaminant releases. The radioactive materials from the leak are not being fully tracked.
  • To comply with NRC regulations, Entergy must control ALL radioactive releases. Any unmonitored release violates federal law.
  • Regulations don’t mean anything if they’re not enforced; NRC has a poor history of enforcing its own regulations and has nearly eliminated fines for violations.
  • DEC regulates non-radioactive liquid discharges and has authority to regulate ground water pollution under the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL).
  • The NYS Environmental Conservation Law states that the discharge of sewage, industrial waste, or other wastes shall not cause impairment of the best usages of the receiving water, as specified by water classification at the location of the discharge and at other locations that may be affected by discharges. The best usage of Class GA waters is as a source of potable water supply; Class GA waters are fresh groundwater. Therefore, regardless of whether the water is actually used as drinking water, all water of the state must be potable.
  • Cesium-137, Tritium, and Strontium 90 found in nearby wells exceed New York State and EPA drinking water limits.
  • DOH conducts periodic offsite sampling, but the last report used data from 1994 and lacked both vegetation and sediment collection samples.
  • NRC’s environmental monitoring rules require annual offsite sampling summaries. The NRC stopped requiring Sr90 sampling in the 1980s because it was “too difficult”. Sampling resumed in 2006 due to public pressure, but only on edible portions of fish.
  • EPA and NRC should require monitoring of all releases of contaminated liquids.
  • DEC and DOH must correct oversight and undertake new studies on the long- term environmental impacts.
  • DEC’s credibility would be strengthened by completion of more studies.

Questions & Answers / Additional Comments

  • Q: Plutonium has been found in deer in West Valley. Why is DEC not testing deer around the Indian Point plant for Sr90, tritium and Cesium-137?
    A:DOH did not have that information in front of them, but will look into the possibility.
  • New monitoring wells are located over fracture points to test whether or not the contaminants are flowing through them.
  • Q: Could there be another leak source at the Indian Point facility?
    A:There is no specific discharge point (like a spring) instead the entire area is contaminated.
  • NRC doesn’t regulate contamination of the site as long as employees don’t show health problems. By the time the contaminant leaches offsite, the effects of the contamination are already in action.
  • The NRC studies on the effects of radiation are 30 years old. These studies focus on adult males and are limited to cancer studies (i.e. don’t include endocrine system and other medical issues). The regulatory agencies are not testing the most vulnerable members of society, i.e. children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
  • Q: Why do state agencies (DEC or DOH) need the NRC’s approval to impose fines on Entergy? Why can’t action be taken on a state level?
    A:If we cited the plant, Entergy would respond that DEC doesn’t have the jurisdiction, resulting in a battle over who has regulatory authority. The NRC would agree that NYS does not have the regulatory authority over the leak. It is much easier for the NRC to bring action against a nuclear power plant.
  • The NRC claims that there are no significant findings at Indian Point. This claim leads to a question of reliability of data and NRC’s enforcement of their own regulations.
  • There must be an independent assessment to inspect the Indian Point facility before the re-licensing procedure is initiated.
  • Q: Does the tidal effect of the Hudson have the ability draw the pool of contaminants under IP into the Hudson?
    A:Tides will not pull water from under the plant into the Hudson.
  • Q: How long has the leak been going on to build up a pool of water that sizeable?
    A:Unknown.
  • Q: Could Entergy be “cherry picking” the times and river conditions when they choose to test Hudson River water, to minimize contaminant levels that are required to be reported?
    A:It is true that the condition of the river changes abruptly and that tidal flow causes the discharged water to spread out. Thus, after a major rain event, the water will appear to be clearer. We don’t know whether or not Entergy is taking water samples after a major rain event or at another time.