Dangerous radiation has leaked from three-quarters of all U.S. nuclear power stations raising fears the country’s water supplies could one day be contaminated.
The number and severity of leaks has increased because of the many old and unsafe plants across America, a new investigation has claimed.
Radioactive tritium has escaped at least 48 of 65 of all U.S. sites, often entering water around the plants through rusty old pipes.
Water tested around 37 of the facilities contained radioactive concentrations exceeding the U.S. drinking water standard and in some cases at hundreds of times over the limit.
One serious case was uncovered at the Braidwood Nuclear Power Station in Illinois, which has leaked more than six million gallons of tritium-laden water in repeated leaks dating back to the 1990s.
Scientists says tritium is not dangerous in small doses but prolonged exposure to high levels is believed to increase the chances of cancer, leukaemia, and mutations in humans.
(Photo, Contaminated: High levels of dangerous tritium are thought to leave the plants via rusted and degraded pipes like this at the now closed Indian Point 1 nuclear plant in New York state)
(Photo, Perilous: This 2007 leak at the Byron nuclear plant in Illinois was allowing 10 gallons of water per minute to pour out raising fears that water supplies would be contaminated by radioactive material)
The leaks have been uncovered by a year-long Associated Press investigation found by trawling the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) records.
Despite the revelations the NRC and industry bosses consider the leaks a public relations problem, not a public health threat.
‘The public health and safety impact of this is next to zero,’ said Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute.
‘This is a public confidence issue.’
(Photo: Flaky safety record: Paint is shown peeling off a wall at the Oconee nuclear plant in South Carolina)
While most leaks have been found within plant boundaries, some have migrated off site
At three sites — two in Illinois and one in Minnesota — leaks have contaminated drinking wells of nearby homes, official records show, but not at levels violating the drinking water standards.
At a fourth site, in New Jersey, tritium has leaked into an aquifer and a discharge canal feeding picturesque Barnegat Bay off the Atlantic Ocean.
It is claimed regulators and industry have weakened safety standards for decades to keep the nation’s commercial nuclear reactors operating within the rules.
Even if there was a major leak, the U.S. Government says The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says seven of 200,000 people who highly contaminated water for decades would develop cancer.