United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Frequently Asked Questions About Indian Point Groundwater Leakage

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Index to All Frequently Asked Questions Pages

Is there a leak in a spent fuel pool at Indian Point? How was it discovered?

On September 1, 2005, Entergy reported to the NRC that seepage was observed from a small crack in the thick concrete wall of the Unit 2 spent fuel pool.  There is a watertight metal liner inside the pool, which was suspected of leaking.  Since then, Entergy has repaired several areas of the liner but has not been able to fully inspect it due to the presence of spent fuel.  Entergy is monitoring a network of sampling wells on the site to decide if the leakage has been stopped.  There was some known leakage from the Unit 1 spent fuel pool, but that fuel was moved to dry cask storage and the pool was drained in November 2008, terminating that leakage.  There are no indications of leakage from the Unit 3 spent fuel pool.

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When did Entergy inform the NRC? What has the NRC done to inspect this issue?

Entergy informed the NRC resident inspectors on September 1, 2005.  Since then, the NRC has conducted inspections and provided oversight of Entergy’s actions to resolve this problem.  See the correspondence list for copies of the NRC inspection reports.

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What are the levels of radioactive contamination seen from the monitoring wells?

Entergy has identified two plumes of radioactive contamination in the groundwater, one associated with the Unit 2 spent fuel pool and one with the Unit 1 spent fuel pool.  The plumes are migrating mainly in a westerly direction, into the plant discharge canal and the Hudson River.  The radioactive isotopes that have been identified include hydrogen-3 (tritium), strontium-90, cobalt-60, cesium-137, and nickel-63.  The levels vary significantly among wells, but in some samples hydrogen-3 has been as high as about 300,000 picocuries per liter, strontium-90 as high as 77 picocuries per liter, cobalt-60 in 2007 had only one positive result at 16 picocuries per liter, cesium-137 as high as 36,900 picocuries per liter, and nickel-63 as high as 1,170 picocuries per liter.

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What dose could the public receive from this contaminated water?

There are no drinking water sources that are affected, so the dose to the public would be from eating fish and shellfish from the Hudson River.  Based on a reasonable consumption, Entergy has calculated an annual dose of about 0.006 millirem to the whole body and 0.007 millirem to the critical organ (adult bone in this case) from groundwater releases.  Considering all releases to the environment from the plant, including the Hudson River, for 2010 Entergy calculated an annual dose of about 0.2 millirem whole body and 0.7 millirem to the critical organ. This compares to a normal average yearly dose per person of 620 millirem from background radiation and other sources such as medical tests.

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Has this event caused Indian Point to exceed any regulatory limit relative to radiological releases to the environment?

No.  Indian Point is required by the plant Technical Specifications to have a Radioactive Effluents Controls program, whose objective is to keep doses to members of the public as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA).  The goal for liquid effluents is to keep annual dose less than 3 millirem to the total body and less than 10 millirem to any organ.  If these limits are exceeded, the licensee must report it and take corrective action.  These limits have not been exceeded.  The annual legal limits, which could result in a civil penalty, include a limit of 100 millirem as stated in 10 CFR 20.1301 and 25 millirem whole body or 75 millirem to the thyroid as stated in 40 CFR 190.10.

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What is the current condition of the Unit 1 Fuel Storage Pools?

In November 2008, the fuel in the Unit 1 pools was moved to dry cask storage onsite and the pools were drained.  The Unit 1 pools are being maintained dry, so there is no further leakage.

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Have any other plants experienced leakage from the Spent Fuel Pool?

Yes.  When leakage is detected, the NRC verifies that licensees take appropriate actions to monitor and control the leakage to ensure public health and safety and protection of the environment.

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What is Tritium?

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Tritium

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What is Strontium-90?

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Strontium-90

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, March 29, 2012