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New, More Potent Radioactive Material Found at Vt. Yankee

By Martin Laine     May 22, 2010 in Environment
Strontium-90, a more potent radioactive isotope than tritium, has been found in the soil at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.
The contaminant was found as workers were cleaning up and removing radioactive tritium that had leaked from the plant earlier this year. It is a known carcinogen, and has been known to cause leukemia. Plant officials say that all the contaminated soil has been removed, and there is no public health threat.
Plant officials became aware of the presence of the Strontium-90 on Monday, according to a story in the Brattleboro Reformer. The discovery was not made public until late Friday in an email to the media from company spokesman Larry Smith.
Coincidentally, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission released a report this week praising the plant’s handling of the earlier tritium leak and concluding that no violations of regulations had occurred. The report was based on information provided to the NRC by the plant’s parent company, Entergy Corp. of New Orleans.
How the Strontium-90 got into the soil is not known, whether it was part of the tritium leak, or by some other means, and this troubles critics of the plant.
Raymond Shadis , a technical consultant for the New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution, told the Reformer that the contaminant could have gotten into the soil any number of ways, and criticized the company’s attempt to minimize the problem.
“The problem with all this is Entergy’s almost knee-jerk attempt to bound it – to say it’s an isolated incident … None of this is credible to anyone who’s ever done site remediation at a nuclear power plant.”
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