Oconee Nuclear Station Reports Groundwater Sample Results Feb. 9, 2010
SENECA, S.C. -
Samples from two, adjacent groundwater monitoring wells at Oconee Nuclear Station indicate that groundwater has exceeded the nuclear industry's voluntary reporting level for tritium.
The reporting level is 20,000 picocuries per liter. The Environmental Protection Agency has standards for public drinking supply but these wells are not part of the plant's drinking water system.
"The samples were taken from two monitoring wells not drinking water wells. There is no health risk to the public or plant employees or a violation of EPA standards since this water is not for consumption," said Dave Baxter, Oconee site vice president. "These monitoring wells are located on the site property near the main plant buildings. Other well samples show these tritium levels are confined to the plant property."
Tritium is found naturally in air and water and is also a byproduct of reactor operations. The results from these samples were 24,400 and 35,400 picocuries per liter. Tritium must be ingested in large amounts to pose a significant health hazard. While this water is not for drinking purposes, a person would have to drink two liters of this water per day for an entire year to receive a radiological dose of seven millirem. For comparison, you would receive about 6-10 millirem from a routine chest x-ray. On average, individuals annually receive about 360 millirem from all sources, including background and medical sources of radiation.
Results from the 52 other wells sampled on the site do not show tritium levels above the reporting criteria. In addition, S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control sampled residential wells around Oconee Nuclear Station in February 2008, and the results showed no detectable levels of tritium in the wells tested. Duke Energy samples from surrounding monitoring wells indicate the tritium has not migrated off the plant site in groundwater.
"We have an aggressive, ongoing investigation in progress to determine the cause," said Baxter. "We have notified the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control of our recent findings and plan to keep the agency updated on our investigation and additional sampling."
Anyone with questions about Oconee Nuclear Station's operations and impacts to groundwater may contact the plant's community affairs staff at 1-800-777-1004, option 1.
Duke Energy Carolinas
Duke Energy Carolinas owns nuclear, coal-fired, natural gas and hydroelectric generation. That diverse fuel mix provides approximately 19,000 megawatts of electricity capacity to approximately 2.4 million customers in a 22,000-square-mile service area of North Carolina and South Carolina.
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