Nuclear Power Plant's Radioactive Waste Leaching into Connecticut River

Representatives of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, just three days after downplaying the likelihood that any radioactive tritium had been leaked into the Connecticut River, is now admitting, according to local television station WMUR, that it is likely that this dangerous radioactive material has reached the Connecticut River. Radioactive tritium, a byproduct of nuclear power generation, was first detected in the groundwater around the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in November 2009. The source of the leak is still unknown.

Vermont Yankee Looking to Move On Before Finding the Leak, says VP Hebert

Curt Hebert, the Vice President Vermont Yankee's parent company Entergy, told WMUR that they are digging a hole in a spot where they have discovered a very high level of tritium contamination outside the plant to see if they can find a leak there. Vermont Yankee spokesman Larry Smith told them a day earlier that Vermont Yankee is "safe, it's secure, and tritium isn't a good thing to find, but we are going to find it and deal with it and move on." Well, as long as the plant officials are going to "deal with it and move on," area residents and those living downstream along the Connecticut River can rest at ease.

Don't Worry, Vermont Yankee's PR Guys are on the Job

After all, Vermont Yankee officials are already moving to ameliorate the PR damage. Hebert commented, "It's our job now to regain the trust." Wrong Mr. Hebert. It is your job now to find the leak, clean up the mess, and shut down the plant until you can assure the public that it won't happen again. Bear in mind, that you didn't think it could happen before it actually did, so that's going to be a steep hill to climb. With the license for Vermont Yankee coming up for renewal in two years, you don't have much time to reach that goal. His sincerity is indicated by the latest news update on the Vermont-Yankee Web site, which is a summary of the conference call by the Entergy chairman and CEO, J. Wayne Leonard, in which the man in charge of the entire operation promised to get to the bottom of conflicting reports on whether there are any underground pipes carrying radioactive material outside the plant proper. Despite documents to the contrary, the summary says, an Entergy executive told state officials that he did not believe such pipes existed, but he'd get back to them. He never did. Six months later, the tritium contamination in groundwater was discovered around the plant.

Dangerous Radioactive Waste Among the most Persistent Man-made PoisonsIt is clear that nuclear power is not the answer to our clean energy goals. During normal operation, nuclear reactors produce radioactive waste that remains dangerous to human and animal life for thousands of years. This dangerous nuclear material must be stored virtually forever, in human terms, in containers that will never leak, or degrade. It must be stored in such a manner as to prevent contamination of ground water, and even the ground itself. Such nuclear waste dumps are the proverbial political football, with community after community rising up in opposition to storage of nuclear waste anywhere within hundreds of miles of their homes, and rightfully so; this is dangerous stuff.

Nuclear Power is not Clean Energy

If everything isn't working properly, then nuclear power is much more dangerous and the consequences can render huge swaths of land unlivable for generations. The closest thing the United States has had to a nuclear power plant disaster was an incident at Three Mile Island. Three Mile Island was a nuclear power plant that experienced a nuclear core meltdown in 1979. Click here for a video of then Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh discussing the potential danger of a nuclear power plant core meltdown. The clean-up of the radioactive core, which involved releasing radioactive gases into the atmosphere at the nuclear power plant, and then hauling off the remnants of the radioactive core for eternal storage. Special containers had to be designed in order to carry this highly radioactive material through the streets by train without exposing the public to lethal levels of radiation. It took seven years after the incident for the removal of the damaged core to begin, and another four years to complete the transfer according to information provided by, a virtual museum set up by Dickinson College.

While the yet undiscovered leak at Vermont Yankee is much less serious than the nuclear core meltdown at Three Mile Island in 1979, it does underscore the danger and persistence of the nuclear pollution created as an ordinary byproduct of nuclear power plants. The mantel of clean energy does not cover nuclear power.


Vermont Yankee. Excerpts from Entergy's Chairman and CEO, J. Wayne Leonard's February 2, 2010 quarterly conference call to stakeholders. February 3, 2010. Retrieved from on February 11, 2010.

WMUR. Officials: Radioactive Isotope may have Reached Connecticut River. February 11, 2010. Retrieved from on February 11, 2010.

Dickinson College. Three Mile Island Emergency. Retrieved from on February 11, 2010.WMUR. Nuclear Plant Tries to Track Down the Source of Radioactive Isotope. February 8, 2010. Retrieved from on February 11, 2009.

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