– Vermont finds contaminated fish as nuclear debate rages (Reuters, Aug 2, 2011):
* Vermont Yankee could close by March 2012
* Entergy fighting for reactor survival
NEW YORK, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Vermont health regulators said
on Tuesday they found a fish containing radioactive material in
the Connecticut River near Entergy’s (ETR.N) Vermont Yankee
nuclear power plant which could be another setback for Entergy
to keep it running.
The state said it needs to do more testing to determine the
source of the Strontium-90, which can cause bone cancer and
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin wants the 620 megawatts
reactor shut in March 2012 when its original operating license
was to expire.
“Today’s troubling news from the Vermont Department of
Health is another example of Entergy Louisiana putting their
shareholders’ profits above the welfare of Vermonters,” Shumlin
said in a statement.
“I am asking my Health Department to keep a close eye on
test results moving forward to determine the extent of any
contamination that has reached the environment.”
New Orleans-based Entergy, the second biggest nuclear
power operator in the United States, however wants to keep the
reactor running for another 20 years under a new license.
Entergy filed a complaint in federal court to block the
state from shutting the reactor next year.
Officials at Entergy were not immediately available for
“One finding of (Strontium-90) just above the lower limit
of detection in one fish sample is notable because it is the
first time Strontium-90 has been detected in the edible portion
of any of our fish samples,” the Vermont Department of Health
said on its website.
The Health Department said it did not know how the
Strontium-90, which is both naturally occurring in the
environment and a byproduct of nuclear power production and
nuclear weapons testing, got into the fish.
“We cannot associate low levels of Strontium-90 in fish in
the Connecticut River with Vermont Yankee-related radioactive
materials without other supporting evidence,” the report said.
MORE ANALYSIS NEEDED
The Health Department asked for additional analysis on the
fish obtained on June 9, 2010 that contained the strontium-90
and also on other fish samples.
These analyses will take weeks to complete, the Health
Department said, noting it is working to obtain additional fish
for testing much farther upstream in the Connecticut River.
The Connecticut River divides Vermont and New Hampshire
before running through Massachusetts and Connecticut. Vermont
Yankee is located in Vernon, Vermont, near the border between
Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts about 110 miles
northwest of Boston.
Strontium-90 and other human made radioactive materials
come from the fairly constant release of very low quantities
from medical and industrial users of radioactive materials, and
from infrequent releases such as above-ground nuclear weapons
testing in the 1950s, and the nuclear reactor accidents at
Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011.
Radioactive materials are nothing new for Vermont Yankee.
In January 2010, Entergy said it discovered a radioactive
tritium leak at the plant. The company stopped that leak in
March 2010 but not before the state Senate, which was then led
by now Governor Shumlin, voted to block the state from allowing
the plant to run beyond March 2012.
Vermont is the only state in the nation with a say on
whether a nuclear plant within its borders can operate. The
state gained that right, which Entergy is now challenging in
federal court, when it agreed to allow Entergy to buy the plant