Two days after the fact, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission learned that an estimated 600,000 gallons of boiling, radioactive water turned to steam and was released over the lower Hudson Valley in November, 2009, as a result of a malfunction that caused Westchester County’s Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant to be shut down. Mired in slow response, vague details and insufficient health impact information, residents of Katonah, South Salem and Somers respond with outrage to a report on an investigation into the incident published January 8th in the Daily News.
The Daily reports, “NRC inspectors are still trying to figure out what really happened. A report on the incident is expected at the end of the month….The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not have safe levels set for inhaling tritium.”
Here are responses from local residents to the report:
But it’s OK, according to the NRC: “Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said the release valves “were intentionally opened (as per plant procedures) as part of the shutdown.”…. “Sheehan stressed that the level of a radioactive isotope tritium in the steam was below the allowable federal levels for drinking water. The News, however, reported that the release of tritium was not in drinking water but in escaped steam which is inhaled through the lungs.”
Just another example of how the NRC has made it clear that their highest priority is to keep their regulatory charges profitable, and their agency relevant. A year or two ago at a public hearing regarding the extension of Indian Point’s license, after waiting in a long line of equally agitated citizens, I got to make my point to their faces. I worked in the engineering industry for fourteen years. No amount of engineering expertise can guarantee there will be zero malfunctions, and the NRC and their clients are being disingenuous when they tell us otherwise. I got no response – they are obliged to listen only. We know an airliner will come down occasionally; a petrochemical plant will blow up, and hard drives fail. The difference here is that failure can wreak a catastrophe of such scale that it is no longer possible to speak in terms of net benefits. That’s why nuclear power plants are essentially uninsurable, and can only operate with the risk passed to the public via the Price-Anderson Act .
Isn’t it ironic that public health insurance, which may protect us when we fall ill of leukemia from radiation exposure, is deemed by detractors as an excessive intervention by the government in the private economy, but socializing the risk of the Nuclear industry that creates these hazards is OK? The nuclear exposure from the steam release may be “below the allowable limits”, but the cynicism is off the scale. –Dan
Dan Welsh of South Salem way is currently doing penance for a previous career selling several hundred thousand tons of polyester production capacity to the Chinese. His sentence is sitting on the Lewisboro Town Board, attempting to promote sustainability measures to same in the midst of the worst economy in decades, in one of the most politically charged towns in the county. Your sympathies are appreciated.
Where can I find data quantifying the range of acceptable levels of tritium to drink or inhale? Also, once airborne, how long do these particulates stay suspended prior to settling on land, and water?
I felt the same kind of anger when Guiliani decided to spray the boroughs with malythian for West Nile Virus. I had no choice about this happening over my neighborhood. Although the advice for residents was to keep their windows shut for several hours, many residents had no air-conditioning and fans are useless with shut windows during a hot summer evening. Needless to say, many NYC residents (my young developing children, to name three) built-up a whole lot of toxins during those sprayings.
When it comes to environmental health, we need to be stronger as a community. We need to join together and voice our disapproval whether it be from nuclear power plants spewing toxic chemicals into the air; coal firing plants and chlorine plants spewing mercury vapor into the air, which later mix with water vapor to become methyl-mercury polluting the fish, plants and animals we eat or the needless spraying of pesticides because 2 people were afflicted with West Nile Virus.
To quote Bill Moyers, “If you are not outraged, you aren’t paying attention”!-Lisa
Lisa Silver is co-founder of Citizens for a Sustainable Lewisboro.
This effects us all and the hue and cry should reach all the way to Washington!
Herb Oringel, Chair, Energy Advisory Panel, Town of Somers
Here is a link to the description of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster which happened under similar circumstances with a valve not shutting off.
Please comment below after the descriptive tags for this article. Post this article to your Facebook page, email it to friends, get feedback!
Get Involved! Join the local green conversation, scheming and real gatherings. Follow KatonahGreen on
Special Announcement: On January 23rd take advantage of a very special opportunity to learn directly from David Mathison, renowned new media consultant, former VP of Reuter’s News Agency and author of Be The Media in a special seminar arranged by Katonah Green and Really Social Strategies at the Katonah Library. Environmental activists need to learn how to REALLY leverage social media to spread the message and create behavioral change. We have the power in our hands. Register now.