Entergy Vermont Yankee officials notified the Department of Health on Friday that a positive tritium sample from the Construction Office Building well. This well had been used in the past for drinking water, but it was taken out of service in March 2010 and is not being used for drinking water. The sample measured at a tritium concentration of 1,040 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). While this is far below the drinking water limit of 20,000 pCi/L, the impact this find has on the future of the plant and the governor’s race could be profound. Already Republican Brian Dubie, a staunch supporter of the plant in the past, has backed off that support, and his opponent, Peter Shumlin, who has been one of the strongest opponents against extending the plant’s license, has said this is one more indicator that the plant should be shut down. The nuclear power plant’s license expires in 2012.”I am extremely troubled by the latest reports from Vermont Yankee,” said Lieutenant Governor Dubie. “I’ve always said that the health and safety of Vermonters comes first. Today’s discovery demonstrates the plant has much more work to do in order to regain the trust and confidence of Vermonters. Until questions are answered and public health can be assured, I cannot support the plant’s continued operations past 2012.”Until questions are answered and public health can be assured, I cannot support the plant’s continued operations past 2012.The Legislature, led by Shumlin as president pro tem of the Senate, voted last winter not to relicense the Vernon plant. The plant needs the approval of various federal agencies and the Vermont Public Service Board as well as the Legislature. The plant has suffered through several problems over the last few years, including the collapse of part of a cooling tower, the “losing” and then “finding” of a spent fuel rod, and most significantly, the leaking into the ground of tritium and other radioactive materials associated with nuclear fission. While none of these issues has led health officials to consider them serious, opponents of the plant have argued that they all add up to an aging facility that needs to be shut down.State Senator Shumlin said, “I have been saying for a long time that the crisis at Vermont Yankee is going to be both costly and devastating for those who live near the plant. How many leaks and lies does Brian Dubie have to live through before he will stand up for the people of Vermont instead of the stockholders of Entergy Louisiana? We need a governor who gets it right the first time and has the courage to stand up to corporate power when it is wrong.”I have been saying for a long time that the crisis at Vermont Yankee is going to be both costly and devastating for those who live near the plant.The COB well is about 360 feet deep, and the sample that tested positive for tritium was taken at a depth of 200 to 220 feet while hydrogeological contractors were conducting what is called packer testing. Packer testing is used to isolate specific fractures in the bedrock to analyze the water in that fracture. A sample from the COB well at a fracture at 300 to 320 feet in depth tested at less than the lower limit of detection for tritium. The lower limit of detection is usually less than 500 pCi/L.Packer testing is this well was immediately stopped to allow for investigation into the possibility that the testing equipment or process itself cross-contaminated the well.The Vermont Department of Health had requested a split sample from the COB well for all packer testing sites. This particular site sample was shipped to the Department of Health today.Vermont Department of Health samples from the Vernon Elementary School and numerous private residences off-site near the plant have not shown tritium levels greater than the lower limit of detection, nor have they measured any other nuclear power plant-related radioactive materials since this tritium investigation began in January.The Environmental Protection Agency limit for tritium in drinking water is 20,000 pCi/L.Investigation SummaryJanuary 7 – Tritium Contamination DiscoveredVermont Yankee Nuclear Power station notifies the Vermont Department of Health that samples taken in November 2009 from a ground water monitoring well on site (identified as GZ-3) contained tritium. This finding signals an unintended release of radioactive material, and it means that other radioisotopes may have contaminated the environment.January 11 – Investigation BeginsVermont Yankee begins its own investigation to identify sources of the tritium and magnitude of contamination, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in an oversight role. The Health Department organizes a team of state health and environmental experts to independently monitor, test and report on the investigation, and analyze possible risks and remediation actions. February 14 – Major Source of Leak FoundA pair of steam pipes inside the Advanced Off-Gas (AOG) pipe tunnel are found to be badly corroded and leaking nuclear steam. The floor drain of this concrete tunnel was found to be clogged with construction debris and mud, which caused condensate from the steam pipes to pool inside the tunnel and leak out at a failed joint. (AOG Building Schematic)May 14 – Soil Tests Confirm ContaminationSoil testing in the area around the leak has measured concentrations of radioisotopes consistent with a leak of nuclear reactor water. Steadily decreasing tritium concentrations in samples taken from the ground water monitoring wells drilled since January show the movement of tritium contamination in the ground water generally west to east into the Connecticut River. (Monitoring Well Location Map)May 29 – New Leak FoundVermont Yankee officials notify the Health Department about a new leak that was identified and stopped on May 28 at the AOG drain line. This occurred as the AOG system was being started up after its refueling outage.June – Ongoing InvestigationSince the leak was first reported, the Health Department has been closely monitoring and reporting on the investigation, has stepped up testing of environmental samples, and has been independently analyzing health risk. With assistance from the Agency of Natural Resources, Vermont Emergency Management, and other state agencies, a team of health and environmental experts have been on site regularly as independent analysts.This work is ongoing as Vermont Yankee continues its investigation and study of other plant systems and components to identify, repair or remediate similar ‘extent of conditions’ that could result in a leak.Regular updates presented here are based on information from Vermont Yankee and Entergy officials, and from direct observations and monitoring during site inspections.Source: Vermont Department of Health. See Investigation Archive for past updates and information.