Markey and Lochbaum
Representative Markey of Massachusetts, a long-time nuclear foe, saw this plant-released strontium-90 theme and decided to run with it. (Maybe Markey saw it in the AP articles.) Markey wrote a letter to the NRC, accusing the NRC of letting Vermont Yankee get away with lying to the press. Here's a link to Chairman's Jaczko's answer to that accusation. Jaczko said: The quoted licensee statements in your question are not without foundation based on the above information. (Vermont Yankee is the licensee).
Aside: For more information on Markey, Vermont Yankee, and the NRC, I recommend Victoria Barq's posts at NEI Nuclear Notes.
Markey's letter to Jaczko includes a copy of a letter from David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, written to the Entergy spokesman Larry Smith. (You can read the entire Lochbaum letter in the link.)
In his letter, Lochbaum says:
I was forwarded a copy of the statement you (Larry Smith) released on August 2, 2011, which contained the following statement. "There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Vermont Yankee is the source for the strontium-90...."
'Absolutely no evidence'?
Really? Come on.
How about the report that Entergy submitted to the NRC on May 11, 2011...(that) stated that 3.17 E-08 curies were released in gaseous form...during the 1st quarter of 2010...Past reports (show other releases)....
So what you said in the statement about not detecting strontium-90 in the monitoring wells may be true, but it is not the whole truth is it Mr. Smith? In fact, it is so short of the whole truth as to be very misleading bordering on deceitful.
Mr. Lochbaum includes the numbers 31 billionths of a curie, but he uses a shorthand that not everyone will follow. Then Lochbaum calls Larry Smith's statement "misleading bordering on deceitful" for claiming Vermont Yankee releases do not affect the amount of strontium in the local fish. In my opinion, Lochbaum is assuming that nobody reading his letter will have any idea of what 3.17E-08 means. It means 31 billionths of a curie.
However, in the next paragraph of his letter, Lochbaum has to backtrack. After all, he is a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Lochbaum just called Smith's statement "misleading," but if he ends there, Lochbaum is in trouble. If he ends there, somebody is going to notice that Lochbaum is saying that a plant release of a few billionths of a curie ...ended up in this fish. Not a scientific conclusion! So Lochbaum continues, trying to get on firmer ground:
The whole truth is that Vermont Yankee routinely releases strontium-90 to the environment. This fact does not mean that Vermont Yankee is the primary or sole source of the strontium found in the fish. But this fact also means that Vermont Yankee cannot be excluded as a potential source, as your very misleading statement sought to establish.
Whew. With a statement that is more propaganda than science "Vermont Yankee cannot be excluded as a potential source," Lochbaum attempts to step back into scientific credibility.
Science and Propaganda
Really, Mr. Lochbaum? We cannot exclude the potential of a meteor hitting Radio City Music Hall tomorrow. In the exact same sense, we cannot exclude the potential that some of that billionth part of a curie of Sr 90 wandered nine miles up the river and got into that fish.
We also must include the fact that Lochbaum chooses to use the least-accessible method of expressing scientific notation. Then he doesn't explain the notation. Lochbaum uses tortured sentence construction, such as "cannot exclude."
In my view, everything in this letter is constructed as propaganda, not science. Lochbaum lards his letter with "oh shucks" verbiage and then accuses Entergy of lying. He makes no attempt to explain anything, or put anything in context. He seems to be just hoping that nobody notices the weakness of his statements.
Really, Mr. Lochbaum? Come ON! For Pete's sake, man! Write science, not propaganda!
My conclusion: Entergy told the truth. I leave it to my readers to judge Mr. Lochbaum's words. Perhaps he has expressed himself in a way that is so short of the whole truth as to be very misleading bordering on deceitful.
Update: Victoria Barq at NEI Nuclear Notes has an excellent post published yesterday: NRC’s Jaczko Responds to Rep. Markey on the Sr-90 Issue at Vermont Yankee
To see the effluent reports for Vermont Yankee for yourself, you can see radioactive effluent reports from 2005 to 2010 at this page on the NRC website. For earlier years, you have to go to this NRC page and do a search by clicking on Begin Web-based ADAMS search.
Some example results:
Strontium 89 and strontium 90 releases, by quarter.
All as particulate, all from the stack, 2002, all in curies:
- First quarter. Sr 89 --5.5 times 10 exp -5
- Second quarter. Sr 89-- 1.3 times 10 exp -4
- Third quarter:Sr 89--3.5 times 10 exp -5
- Fourth quarter: Sr 89--5.78 times 10 exp -5
- In the second quarter, there was also a release of Sr 90-- 1.75 times 10 exp -7 curies.
Total release of Sr 90 for the year 2002 was 1.75 times 10 exp -7 curies, or approximately 2 millionths of a curie. Total release of all types of radioactive Sr for the year was 2 ten-thousandths of a curie.
The equivalent release numbers for 2005 were: no strontium 90 detected, but Sr 89 release of 6.3 times 10 exp -6 one quarter, and 6.5 time 10 exp -6 another quarter. These were all high-level releases (from the stack) as in 2002. However, in 2005, there were also ground-level releases of Sr 89 and Sr 90 in the first half of the year, at the level of 1 times ten -8 curies. Total releases here are in the neighborhood of 1 ten-thousandth of a curie, mostly Sr 89, not Sr 90. Sr 90 was at 10 exp -8 curie level.
As Lochbaum said, 31 billionths of a curie of Sr 90. But he made it sound pretty scary. Entergy tries to mislead! Deceitful! Sr 90 released! Etc etc etc.