The latest Carnival of Nuclear Energy is posted now at ANS Nuclear Cafe, the American Nuclear Society blog. Gail Marcus introduces her new book, Nuclear Firsts, which covers the early days of nuclear power development. Dr. Marcus has been Deputy Director at the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Energy Agency at the Office of Economic Development. She holds a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from M. I. T. Her book describes advances during the development of nuclear power, covering eighty facilities and ten countries. This book is a real asset to the industry. I sometimes get tired of reading about Mr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and the big boom. I'd rather read something upbeat once in a while, and Dr. Marcus has provided the book.
Meanwhile, at Nuclear Green Revolution, Charles Barton reverse-engineers the future of energy, and makes an excellent case for advanced reactors that can provide load-following and process heat. At PopAtomic, Suzanne Hobbs has designed a nutritional label for utilities. Gosh, who knew coal had so many calories? Oops, I mean: Who knew coal had such huge carbon dioxide emissions? Well, yeah, we all knew it, but the graphic makes it visible.
And there's more! Update on Vogtle construction, the true story of the SL-1 reactor accident, the future of nuclear fabrication. Always something new at the Carnival!
Rewarmed news. The tritium leak has been fixed for months, but you would never know it if you read the papers around here.
Months ago, when Vermont Yankee found tritium in shallow wells near the plant, they immediately closed down an on-site drinking water well. A sample from this well now shows 1,300 picocuries per liter of tritium. The drinking water standard is 20,000 picocuries of tritium per liter. On the banana scale, the sample in this well isn't even measurable. Maybe 1/400th of a banana? Since two liters at 20,000 picocuries is about 1/20 a banana's worth of radiation, then 2 liters at 1,00o picocuries is 1/20th of 1/20th of a banana. Feel free to check my math (20 x 20 equals 400)
Of course, the local outcry from plant opponents is terrific. People who were very anxious that the tritium was going into the river are now equally anxious that some of it may go into an aquifer. They generally admit that the tritium will be diluted and probably undetectable but Dilution is No Solution to Pollution.
Aside: Plant opponents say Dilution is No Solution to Pollution frequently, whenever someone says that the amount of tritium is not detectable in some body of water. I have noticed that the opponents still get their chimneys cleaned. They cheerfully put all their combustion pollution into the atmosphere, instead of blocking their chimneys and containing the smoke in their homes. Don't they know dilution is no solution? I hope they learn the error of their ways. End Aside.
Anything special happening with this warmed-over news? Well, according to the Brattleboro Reformer, Arnie Gundersen is worried about radioactive strontium turning up in the groundwater, despite the fact that radioactive strontium has never found in test well water. (A small amount was found in a soil sample near the leak.) Mr. Gundersen believes the situation is a gravity problem.
What worries Gunderson (sic) and many others is the possibility of Strontium-90 and Cesium-137, radioactive isotopes, moving into the ground water. "If Entergy keeps shucking and sucking the tritium out of the soil, it'll prevent the isotope from moving," he said. Gunderson (sic) added that the recent rainfall had nothing to do with the sample being found. "Rainfall can't be attributed to anything 2 or 3 feet below the ground," he said. "This a gravity problem, which is pulling the tritiated water down further into the groundwater."
According the same article: more than 265,000 gallons of tritiated water have been remediated from the ground into storage tanks.
The Worst Thing That Ever Happens To You
No Vermont Yankee problem would be complete without a pronouncement from Peter Shumlin. Here's Shumlin's take on the problem, according to WPTZ.
"I have been saying for some time, the leaks at Vermont Yankee from the underground pipes will result in the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the state. The next governor needs to have the courage to stand up to Entergy Louisiana."
This reminds me of my grandmother. She didn't put up with whining. If I complained about something, she would stare me down and say: "May that be the worst thing that ever happens to you." Kind of kept my problems in perspective.
In this spirit, I do hope these leaks are the worst environmental disaster Vermont ever has. However, Vermont already has some environmental problems that are far worse.
Strafford is a lovely town about ten miles from me. It is home to a beautiful Meeting House with a summer series of poetry and fiction readings. Less elegantly, Strafford is home to an old copper mine, the Elizabeth Mine, an unremediated Superfund site that leaks acid drainage into the Ompompanoosuc River, occasionally turning the river orange.
I usually don't write about such things, because I have taken the informal Vermont Oath. According to this oath, I have promised to always say that Vermont is lovely and unspoiled and free of industrial pollution. I have broken the Vermont Oath now! But I had to say it.
The Elizabeth Mine is an environmental disaster, and the VY tritium leak is no big deal.