Radiation discharge near Philadelphia kept secret from public for weeks — No ‘immediate’ health concerns, says NRC

Published: April 13th, 2012 at 5:22 pm ET
By ENENews

Title: NRC reveals radioactive water spill at Limerick nuke plant
Source: The Mercury
Author: Evan Brandt
Date: April 13, 2012
Emphasis Added

Several thousand gallons” of water containing as much as five-times the government’s “safe” level of radioactive tritium was accidentally released at Exelon Nuclear’s Limerick Generating Station last month and then flushed into the Schuylkill River, The Mercury learned Thursday.

Public Kept in Dark Due to Unclear, Voluntary Reporting Requirements Set by Industry

  • However the concentrations of contamination in the water were considered so low that they presented “no immediate health and safety concerns,” according to the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, which is why the incident was not reported publicly until 23 days after it happened.
  • “When formal notifications are made to the state, we expect to receive a written notification to us [...] The company initially said it wasn’t clear whether such a submittal was needed (under the reporting requirements of NEI voluntary Groundwater Protection Initiative) [...] But we insisted that it was needed, and the company ultimately agreed.” -NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan


  • It was 3 a.m. Monday, March 19 when “a manhole cover overflowed during a scheduled and permitted radiological release,” according to an incident report posted on the NRC web site.
  • “several thousand gallons of water [...] was discharged” through a permitted discharge to Possum Hollow Creek, which flows from the plant grounds into the Schuylkill River,” according to information from the NRC.
  • Exelon estimated something less than 15,000 gallons, was legally dumped into the Schuylkill River, which is a drinking water source for several downstream communities, including Phoenixville and Philadelphia.
  • “It’s important to note that the Limerick and other nuclear power plants routinely release slightly radioactive water to the river, but the releases must be controlled and any levels of radioactivity well within allowable limits,” [NRC's] Sheehan wrote.

“Slightly Radioactive”?

  • NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an e-mail that the “maximum level of radioactivity detected in Possum Hollow Creek . . . on the day of the event was 495 picocuries per liter of tritium.”
  • One water sample collected from a puddle near the manhole from which the water first emerged, had a tritium concentration of 113,000 picocuries per liter [Several thousand gallons released]

“Regardless, we made the courtesy notifications because we like to keep stakeholders and community members informed” -Dana Melia, communications manager for the Limerick Generating Station

h/t Anonymous tip

Read the report here


Title: NRC: Bigger Concern Is, Why Did Limerick Nuke Spill Happen?
Source: Patch
Author: Teresa McMinn
Date: April 13, 2012
Emphasis Added

[...] Exelon’s Limerick Generating Station — a nuclear power plant located in Montgomery County, roughly 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia — on March 19 performed a scheduled and permitted water release.

“During a release, mildly radioactive water is pre-mixed with hundreds of thousands of gallons of non radioactive water from Limerick’s cooling towers before it is pumped through a network of pipes to the Schuylkill River,” said Dana Melia, Exelon’s communications manager at the Limerick plant, via email.

But the water took an unexpected path during the recent release. [...]

Most of the spilled water ended up at its target destination – the river, she said.

Although several thousand gallons of water were involved, the spill was contained in a small area on plant property and quickly remediated, she said. [...]

Read the report here

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