* Test does not indicate any new tritium leak
* Tritium poses no harm to public
* Entergy still waiting on license renewal (Recasts, adds license renewal application in first paragraph)
NEW YORK, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Entergy Corp (ETR.N) said on Monday it found radioactive tritium in a water sample from a well at its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, whose license expires in 2012 unless it is renewed.
“This water sample test result does not indicate any new leak of tritium from Vermont Yankee,” Entergy, of New Orleans, said in a release.
A tritium leak earlier this year hurt Entergy’s effort to convince Vermont politicians that Vermont Yankee should continue to operate after its license expires in 2012.
Tritium is a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen that occurs naturally in very small amounts in ground water. It is also a byproduct of power production in nuclear plants.
Entergy said the leak was likely caused by the migration of tritiated water previously released from the leak in the advanced off gas system pipe tunnel sealed and repaired earlier this year.
“This test result does not indicate any threat to public health or safety because the sample was not taken from any active drinking water well, nor has tritium been detected in or near any current drinking water well,” Entergy said.
The amount of tritium found was 1,040 picocuries per liter, significantly below the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s required level to report tritium findings of 30,000 picocuries per liter and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for permissible levels of tritium in drinking water of 20,000 picocuries per liter, Entergy said.
A picocurie is one trillionth of a curie. To place these figures in context, Entergy said there were at least 6 curies (or 6 trillion picocuries) of tritium in an average self-illuminated red “EXIT” sign.
TRITIUM IS A BIG DEAL IN VERMONT.
Several politicians have mentioned tritium as part of their justification for voting against a 20-year renewal of reactor’s operating license and allowing the plant to shut in 2012.
Deciding on license renewals is the responsibility of the NRC, but Vermont is unique among the states in having the ability to decide on a renewal - a right the state gained in approving of Entergy’s acquisition of the reactor.
Vermont Yankee entered service in 1972 with a 40-year operating license.
Entergy filed with the NRC to renew the license for another 20 years in 2006 but was still waiting for the Commission to make a decision.
A month after the company identified the tritium leak, the Vermont Senate in February voted overwhelmingly against the license renewal.
Entergy hopes to convince a new state legislature of the merits of renewing the reactor license when it takes office in January 2011. —————————————————————————————- PLANT BACKGROUND/TIMELINE STATE: Vermont COUNTY: Windham TOWN: Vernon OPERATOR: Entergy Corp’s Entergy Nuclear OWNER(S): Entergy Corp CAPACITY: 620 MW UNIT(S): General Electric Boiling Water Reactor FUEL: Nuclear DISPATCH: Baseload COST: $183 million TIMELINE: 1972 - Reactor enters commercial service 2002 - Entergy buys reactor for $180 million from Vermont
Yankee Nuclear Power and entered a
10-year power purchase agreement to sell power
back to the former owners for about 4.5 cents per
kilowatt hour 2006 - Entergy files with NRC to renew the original 40
year operating license for an additional 20 years Jan 2010 - Entergy identifies tritium leak Feb 2010 - Renewal process - Vermont Senate votes 26-4
against authorizing the Vermont Public Service
Board to issue a certificate of public good that
would allow for the license renewal. Vermont is the only state in the nation with the authority to
block a license renewal. Entergy officials have
said the state gained that authority when Entergy
bought the plant Mar 2010 - Entergy stops tritium leak 2010-12 - Renewal Process - NRC Commission still needs to
decide on an appeal from the NRC staff on a ruling
in Entergy’s favor by the Atomic Safety and
Licensing Board (ASLB) that Entergy must inspect
the reactor nozzles. The staff did not think it
was appropriate for the ASLB to order the company
to conduct the inspection immediately rather than
at some time before renewing the license. After
deciding that appeal, which electricity traders do
not consider important since Entergy has already
conducted the ASLB requested inspections, the
Commission can approve of the renewal. The
Commission however is not bound by any timeline in
making a decision on the renewal. Jan 2011 - Renewal Process - Entergy will get another chance
to convince state legislators to approve of a new
license once the new session starts Mar 2012 - Reactor operating license expires and unit to
retire unless license renewed. The reactor however
can continue to operate so long as the renewal
process is ongoing (Reporting by Scott DiSavino;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)