To Prevent a Drinking Water Disaster from Pottstown to Philadelphia, Limerick Must Close

The Alliance For A Clean Environment ACE Website Blog Post

Blog Post #4 – May 16 , 2012

To Prevent a Drinking Water Disaster from Pottstown to Philadelphia, Limerick Must Close

Limerick Nuclear Power Plant Radioactive Spills and Routine Radioactive Releases Pose Unprecedented Threats To Drinking Water. Limerick Nuclear Plant Must Shut Down To Protect The Drinking Water Supply For Almost Two Million People From Pottstown To Philadelphia.

Overview: Evidence from the past suggests Limerick Nuclear Plant should never have been constructed here based on its unprecedented threats and harms to drinking water.

DRBC, DEP, and NRC allowed Limerick Nuclear Plant to be constructed here, knowing the Schuylkill River could not sustain the long term extraordinary water needs that would be required to maintain Limerick’s cooling towers, or take the continuous radioactive, and heated discharges from the facility.

Extraordinary harms to the drinking water supply for so many people were obviously inevitable, yet ignored, based on evidence in decades old testimony obtained through FOIA Requests by ACE. Harms and threats have been evident and have increased dramatically, since Limerick was licensed decades ago.

NRC recently confirmed that Limerick Nuclear Plant has had four reported spills in the past four years. Two of them admittedly included radioactive waste. We are expected to take Exelon’s word that the other two contained no radioactive waste. The most recent spill occurred on March 19, 2012, and is addressed in this blog posting.

The situation is virtually assured to get worse, far worse, the longer Limerick depletes and contaminates the Schuylkill River, public drinking water, and groundwater. Now, after decades of damage and deception, regulators owe it to the millions of residents in this region who could face the devastating consequences of losing a safe water supply, to close Limerick Nuclear Plant as soon as possible.

Closing Limerick Is The Moral, Ethical Thing To Do For Precaution and Prevention.

1. Ever- Increasing Potential For Irreversible Drinking Water Disaster

- Limerick Nuclear Plant’s Threats To Public Drinking Water Are Unprecedented, Unacceptable, and Increasing Every Day Limerick Operates.
- If Limerick Continues To Operate There May NOT Be Enough Safe Drinking Water For Almost Two Million People From Pottstown to Philadelphia.
- There is not an endless supply of sea water as at Fukushima, only the public’s ever-shrinking drinking water source, the Schuylkill River.
- 4-18-12, at NRC’s meeting in Limerick, ACE asked where the water would come from to deal with Limerick meltdowns, and where would the highly radioactive run-off go?
NRC response 5-9-12:
• There is only enough water for 48 hours of continuous use (including water from the cooling towers, spray pond and ground water tanks. After that it would come from the Schuylkill River. At Fukushima they continued to need water for months after the disaster.
• NRC failed to respond to where the radioactive run-off would go.

2. Signs of Dangerous Water Contamination Threats To Public Health From
Limerick Nuclear Plant’s Routine Operations Are Already Evident.

- Drinking water from the Schuylkill River is already radioactive from Limerick Nuclear Plant’s routine operations.
- Radiation is showing up at some of the highest levels in the nation in Philadelphia water.
- EPA water testing after Fukushima found Iodine-131 in Philadelphia water at the highest levels of all other nuclear plants tested.
- Limerick Nuclear Plant’s routine wastewater discharges are obviously already a major factor in the Iodine-131 radiation found in Philadelphia drinking water.
- Obviously water from the Schuylkill River would NOT be safe to use after a meltdown, even if there was enough.

Iron and Manganese
- To supplement the Schuylkill River flow for Limerick Nuclear Plant operations, starting in 2003, Exelon pumped massive amounts of unfiltered mine water, loaded with iron and manganese, into the Schuylkill River.
- By 2008, Pottstown, the first public drinking water intake showed elevated levels of iron and manganese in testing.

Double Increase In Pollution Discharges From Limerick Nuclear Plant
Exelon’s Request for Limerick Nuclear Plant Discharges to the Schuylkill River (NPDES Permit)
- Instead of providing filtration, Exelon is asking for a permit limit increase that is four times safe drinking water standards.
- If approved, this will increase threats to health and costs for water to those depending on water companies that draw water from the Schuylkill River.

3. Limerick Nuclear Plant’s 3-19-12 Radioactive Spill
Illustrates How The System Fails To Protect Public Health Related To Limerick Nuclear Plant’s Radioactive Threats To Drinking Water.

- A significant Limerick Nuclear Plant radioactive spill was discovered by a guard March 19, 2012 at 3:00 AM. Exelon claims the spill started at 1:35 AM on March 19th. However, there is no independent verification of how long the spill from Outfall 023 continued before it was accidentally detected by the guard at 3:00 AM
- Exelon negligently failed to notify the public for over three weeks, then downplayed the spill, describing what they claimed was a 15,000 gallon spill as a puddle, and asserting that it contained only one kind of radiation, tritium.
- This was hardly just a simple harmless “spill” when it knocked off a manhole cover, lasted days, and was significant enough to cause visible erosion (according to NRC resident inspectors). Water blew off a manhole cover and ran out a large pipe for a long period of time into Possum Hollow Run Streambed (Discharge Point 023) and into the Schuylkill River.
- As much as 15,000 gallons of radioactive reactor water spilled (Estimated by Exelon) with no verification whatsoever. Radioactive spill could be at least several hundred thousand gallons.
• NRC officials admitted to ACE 4-18-12, that NRC is not really sure how much water was released. NRC made no attempt to independently verify Exelon’s estimate.
• Exelon’s math is fuzzy
- Intentional Deception? Discrepancies in Reporting On Limerick’s Spill
• NRC illogically protested to a reporter that Exelon should have reported it to NRC, which would automatically get posted on the NRC website. However, Exelon did report it to on-site NRC officials, March 19, 16 hours after the spill. NRC should have immediately reported the spill to the media.
 NRC’s website posting, didn’t come until April 11, 2012, several weeks after the spill.
 NRC failed to protect public health by failing to immediately notify the public.
• NRC officials said spill went unreported immediately because “Exelon determined it was NOT reportable”.
 This appears to have been a convenient delay to avoid full and accurate disclosure during the worst part of the consequences.
 Three weeks after the 3-19-12 spill, on 4-11-12 when independent verification was no longer an option, Exelon filed a report to NRC.
• NRC had few answers about the spill by 4-18-12, knowing they would be questioned about the spill at their annual meeting on Limerick.
- The public had NO idea Limerick’s radioactive “spill” occurred, because no public announcement was made at the time of the spill.
- 16 hours after the spill was detected, at 5:00 PM on March 19th, Exelon implemented additional controls to prevent the overflow.
- NRC’s resident inspectors were first notified by Exelon at 5:00 PM on March 19th, 16 hours after the spill was first detected. NRC should have provided immediate full public disclosure about the radioactive spill to try to protect public health.
- 3-20, the next day, NRC dispatched a “radiation specialist” to review the event and Exelon’s actions. Apparently little was learned. When NRC held its annual Limerick meeting 4-18-12, NRC inspectors could not provide very important details on the spill.
- 40 hours after the spill was first detected, state and local officials were informed (5:00 PM on 3-20) They were told Increased levels of tritium were found in water samples collected from the spill area. Exelon failed to provide officials with full, accurate, and timely disclosure.
- Even after public officials were informed 3-20 – almost two days after the spill – NOT ONE notified the public. Who was notified, but then failed to inform the public?
- The cause of the back-up was not unclogged and cleared by Exelon until 3-21, two days after the spill was first discovered.
- Exelon claimed the cause of the backup of cooling tower blowdown and reactor water was due to clogging of the Schuylkill River diffuser (Limerick’s Radioactive Discharge Pipe – Outfall 001)
- Exelon failed to make an official notification to NRC or state and local elected officials until 23 days after the spill, after which the public was finally notified by the Pottstown Mercury.
- Evan Brandt did excellent reporting in the Pottstown Mercury to notify the public, but only over 3 weeks after the spill, when it finally appeared on NRC’s website.
- Exelon told Mercury reporter Brandt the spill of reactor water into the river was “No Big Deal” and it was a “Permitted Discharge”. While deceptively attempting to assert no harm, this was the first time Exelon admitted that Limerick has routine radioactive discharges into a vital source of drinking water, the Schuylkill River.
- Limerick’s spill impacted the water of over 1 1/2 million people from Phoenixville to Philadelphia.

4. The Tritium Scam

NRC and Exelon attempted to make us believe Limerick’s leak was just one radinuclide, tritium, and that tritium levels were within some magical deceptive “safe limit”.

- Even if Limerick’s spill would have been just tritium,
• How can NRC claim 20,000 picocuries per liter of tritium is a safe limit?
• or Exelon claim 5 times that amount is NO BIG DEAL?
- Customers of water companies drawing from the Schuylkill River were just exposed to elevated levels of the synergistic impacts from many dangerous radionuclides that entered the Schuylkill River as a result of Limerick Nuclear Plant’s radioactive spill.

5. Exelon’s Track Record Here and Elsewhere Shows Why We Can’t Trust Them To Provide Accurate and Timely Disclosure.

- Yet Exelon controls all Limerick Nuclear Plant monitoring, testing, and reporting.
• Specifics showing why we can’t trust Exelon’s data – See Section 20
• To determine our radiation risks from Limerick Nuclear Plant, we basically rely on the company with a vested interest in the outcome that can’t be trusted.
- The recent spill is a perfect example of how Exelon avoids full, accurate, timely disclosure.
- To assert there is no risk from radioactive discharges from Limerick’s reactor
into a public drinking water source defies logic and reality.
- To assert water from Limerick’s reactor is only tritium is a shameful lie.

Dr. Lewis Cuthbert
ACE President

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