Tritium trouble? Nuke fears rise with quake, self-policing

After the nuclear catastrophe that followed the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last spring, some Central Virginia activists cautioned that a similar nightmare could unfold right here at the Dominion-operated North Anna nuclear generating plant in Louisa County. Despite Dominion's assurances that the plant made it through the August 23 earthquake unscathed, activists contend that the quake, which measured 5.8 on the Richter Scale and had an epicenter just eleven miles from the plant, may have been more catastrophic than anyone is admitting. New information bolsters their fears.

On Monday, August 29, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced that the quake may, in fact, have produced force that exceeded the North Anna plant's specifications and that the Commission is sending a special Augmented Inspection Team to assess the damage.

"Initial reviews determined the plant may have exceeded the ground motion for which it was designed," says the release, which also assures that "no significant damage to safety systems has been identified."

That's small consolation to one prominent nuclear watchdog, who says it's not what's above ground that gives him the greatest concern.

"Central to the issue is miles of buried pipe under the plant that carry radioactive water," says Paul Gunter, director of a nonprofit group called Beyond Nuclear.

Gunter cites recent problems with underground pipes at nuclear plants in Illinois and Vermont, where millions of gallons of water contaminated with the radioactive hydrogen isotope tritium seeped into groundwater, even as the power companies that owned the plants denied for years that it was happening.

The result of those leaks and their public concealment by the Exelon and Intergy power companies– at the Braidwood Station plant in Illionis and at the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant– was not additional government oversight as one might expect, says Gunter, but merely the creation of two voluntary programs that allow the power companies to inspect their own pipes and groundwater and then report the findings to the Commission.

"Here's an industry that has hidden these leaks that is now self-reporting and overseeing itself to the NRC," says a disgusted Gunter.

Indeed, at North Anna, newly arrived government inspectors won't be conducting their own tests of the miles of underground pipes. And the assumption that those pipes didn't sustain damage during the earthquake, which knocked two Louisa County schools out of commission and caused cracks in the Washington Monument some 90 miles away, might be laughable to Gunter if he weren't convinced of potentially grave public danger.

"How can an uninspectable, inaccessible buried pipe have integrity?" Gunter asks. "When this Augmented Inspection Team walks onto the site, they'll be walking over the buried pipe that could be leaking."

"We have a limited number of inspector resources," acknowledges Commission spokesperson Roger Hannah, who says when it comes to the pipes, inspectors will "make sure we see what [Dominion is] doing."

Hannah scoffs at the notion that tritium, already considered by the Commission a much lesser danger than uranium, could leak from damaged pipes into the groundwater and go unnoticed by inspectors.

"If you had some issue, you'd see some leakage fairly quickly," says Hannah, noting that no tests have revealed radioactive leakage anywhere at the North Anna.

Dominion spokesperson Richard Zuercher also offers reassurance that all is well at North Anna, above and under-ground.

"We do have ways to detect if there's any leakage in water," says Zuercher, who says the only damage at the facility was "cosmetic" and didn't affect nuclear function and who insists Dominion will "do whatever is necessary to verify that everything is intact."

Gunter, however, says he believes Dominion's not going far enough to protect the public.

"Given the industry history and what's been done before, Dominion should be distributing bottled water to the town of Mineral and to the residents of Lake Anna," he says. "Indefinitely."



NOAA forecasts four such storms in this decade with the most dangerous period the next 3 to 5 years.

NASA warns any such storm can collapse the power grid for months.

A nuclear plant without grid power for a month is a meltdown candidate.

See the Aesop Institute website for an overview and suggestions to prevent the worst and mitigate the impact.

This threat is far worse than that of a terror attack.

The hurricane and the earthquake can be viewed as wake-up calls!

no nukes! Start the process of closing down the plant.

Coal baby. Clean, carbon neutral coal!!

Close down the plant? Isn't Dominion Virginia Power in the process of building more reactors at the same location?

Given the consequences of an accident at a nuclear plant are so extreme (ie surrounding countryside uninhabitable for centuries as seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima), we must take potential accidents very seriously and work to avoid them at all cost. Thank you for the article.

In addition to the pipe issue raised here, I have seen that a Richmond CBS affiliate, WVTR, reported local residents saying Lake Anna, which is the source of cooling water for the Nuclear Plants, dropped 22" on the 25th of August. Since the water is required for cooling, the new inspectors must also insure the supply of cooling water is secure (ie, the dam is in good condition, etc) post quake.

I worked at power plants and the piping wears out from the intense pressures and constant high-speed water flows in the pipes. The pipes are buried in concrete so, if an earthquake hit the area even 50 miles away, the concrete cracks and at the same time cracks the piping. Leaking will never be found unless the water comes to the surface.

You want to know why there is so many breast cancers, skin cancers, and many other types of cancer...just look at the stack releases that happen everyday at nuclear plants....I'm surprised that we don't glow!

The funny thing is, the guys that are lying and misinforming everyone about these problems, are going to get cancer, too. I guess they think the radiation badge they wear will protect them....

A nuclear plant without grid power for a month is a meltdown certainty.

The most amazing thing for me is that 'older people', the 'Baby Boomers' as they are called, are such moral cowards that they are afraid to speak out.

I was born in 1936 in England, and I remember very severe winters with lots of snow and drifting. I remember geting up in the 1950's and looking out of the window to see a hump in the snow that was my car. I remember digging my way to the car and clearing the snow to get to work.

I was a member of the local village Cricket Team and we used to have pretty good summers and we could get out and play almost every weekend and we used to practice at least 3 to 4 days per week. I also remember the smog and the fact that not only England but the whole of Europe was covered in a pall of smoke from October to March, because the only means we had of staying warm was coal and wood fires. I worked for the National Coal Board in the mines. Work was hard, the pay was good and it was the Labour Government with Arthur Scargill and Neil Kinnoch and his ilk that held Britain to ransom. Most of us didn't want the perpetual strikes and Communism, but we had no choice.

Then came the 'Smokeless Zones' and the carbonizing plants and gas and oil-fired central heating and towards the end of the 1950's and into the 1960's, the smog got less and less and so did the pall of smoke over the UK and Europe in Winter. At the same time the weather started to change, Winter snow got less and less. Summers got colder and wetter, then came the nuclear plants and the North Sea Gas and from the 1970's on, the weather changed completely until snow almost died out (and so did summer!)

I see that more and more people are heating their homes now with coal and wood-burning stoves, because of the high prices of oil and gas and the smoke is slowly starting to rise from private homes again.

Do I believe that this so-called 'Climate Change' is man-made? YES, I do, but for the exact opposite reasons that slimy Gore came up with. Anyone born before 1940 should know that it's the LACK of CO2 and sun activity that has caused the problem.

Re-open the coal mines all over the world! Close down nuclear plants. Make gas and petrol from coal. This would keep the lazy good-for-nothing loafers in the UK, USA and Europe with a job, It would reduce immigration from the Middle East and Africa and the weather might just get back to what it used to be. I lived with the smog, so did millions like me and it's a small price to pay for some decent weather, lots of work, less dole queues, less hand-outs to lazy immigrants and asylum seekers and a return to old-fashioned values.

Why hasn't the fracking angle been mentioned yet? There is some going on 160 miles away in WV even though it has already been banned in several states for causing earthquakes.

Holy crap! This article made it onto the headlines!!!!!! Head's up, Hook editors, you're about to get 5 gazillion hits from around the world. Can your server handle it?

Woohoo!! Big shout out to all the Rense readers from Cville, Virginia! :D

"Why hasn't the fracking angle been mentioned yet? There is some going on 160 miles away in WV even though it has already been banned in several states for causing earthquakes"

I believe it falls into the same category as Thor's Hammer fell and an alien spaceship was spotted just before the quake.

@ Christopher Timmons and jeezlouise:

According to this article here:

"I think it's really hard to deny there's a connection when the frequency of Arkansas earthquakes dropped by two-thirds when the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission banned fracking (see Note that they didn't stop entirely, which suggests that fault disruption may persist even after fracking stops.

Braxton County West Virginia also experienced a marked reduction in their quakes after the West Virginia Oil and Gas Commission forced fracking companies to cut back on the pressure and rate of salt water injection into the bedrock (see

According to a joint study by Southern Methodist University and University of Texas-Austin, earthquakes started in the Dallas/Fort Worth region after a fracking disposal well there began operating in 2008 and stopped when it was closed in 2009 (see"

"Nuclear catastrophe," "similar nightmare could unfold here," "may have been more catastrophic..."

You "journalists" ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Look around the Fukushima plant - total devastation from the earthquake and tsunami. Look at the contribution from four meltdowns - people had to move into shelters that were not destryoed by the earthquake.. No injuries from Fukushima, no deaths, no overexposures to radiation. Look at the direct hits to the Turkey Point nuclear plant south of Miami from Hurricane Andrew, look at the River Bend, South Texas Project, and Grand Gulf nuclear plants that withstood assaults from hurricanes Katrina, and Rita, look at the TVA nuclear plants that were hit by multiple tornados, look at the Ft. Calhoun plant in Nebraska that stood as an island while everything around it was flooded.

Why can't you all see that a nuclear plant is one of the safest structures built by man, and is designed to stand up to natural disasters that normal structures cannot withstand. Yes, Chernobyl's graphite reactor burned for days and spewed deadly radiation for miles around, but WE DONT BUILD NUKES OUT OF CHARCOAL IN THIS COUNTRY, WE BUILD THEM FROM CONCRETE AND STEEL, AND PROTECT THEM IN A CONCRETE AND STEEL CONTAINMENT BUILDING. Three Mile Island meltdown? No injuries to the public. Four Fukushima meltdowns? No injuries to the public. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados? No injuries to the public. Time and time again.

Fear mongers.

George W. Bush for President in 2012! C'mon, this guy will have a beer with you! He's a born again Christian. And he loves his mum! Vote GWB 2012. He's a war president. Let's go Republicans, vote us another gem in 2012!!!

Nuclear power, the energy source proclaimed to be so cheap it was not even worth metering by industry zealots back in the 50s. But now nuclear power is so cost prohibitive the cretins who run these plants know they do not have or can they ever collect enough money to do the necessary inspections.

See the BBC documentary, "Pandora's Box" under the segment called, "A is for Atom". It was known back in the 50's by nuclear industry insiders that today's plant cores are too big to contain and that relying on water cooling for containment is utterly complicated and imprecise at best.

Now one can understand why the utility industry and its nuclear zealots fought so long and hard to mislead people into believing additional power from solar and wind was too expensive.

Tritium is exceedingly difficult to detect. If they are saying there are no elevated radiation levels, they are most likely talking about gamma levels, and tritium isn't a significant gamma emitter. A simple handheld alpha / beta / gamma geiger counter will not detect the rather unique low-voltage beta emission, it requires more specialised equipment.

Just like with the Los Alamos fire's smoke they are lying by omission, acting as if they are reporting the full story when in fact if there were levels detected without complex lab tests the danger would be so great that a few deaths would be likely from even short duration exposures. The greater danger is long term exposure by consumption in drinking water.

There are some folks saying they have inside information on what really caused the quake. The nuking of underground bases intended to be hiding places for the elites. This one supposedly comes from a Black Dragons spokesperson. One less place for kids to be abused by a bunch of demonic folks if true, yay!

Kudos to ya Courtney Stuart. You've done a real service to address these concerns.

Carbon Austerity Tax (CAT) V's Plutonium Austerity Tax (PAT)?? Both??.....Caesium 137 Austerity Tax??....the PAT, CAT CAT??

From Wikipedia:

..Like hydrogen, tritium is difficult to confine. Rubber, plastic, and some kinds of steel are all somewhat permeable. This has raised concerns that if tritium were used in large quantities, in particular for fusion reactors, it may contribute to radioactive contamination, although its short half-life should prevent significant long-term accumulation in the atmosphere...

...Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin, but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin.[14][15][16][17] HTO has a short biological half-life in the human body of seven to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment.

Radioactive tritium has leaked from 48 of 65 nuclear sites in the United States.

~ I still cannot find a picture or description of what water looks like when it's tainted w/ tritium but I strongly suspect it is. Well water now has a cloudy-looking color that can easily be seen when put into a dark container.

Tried to find some real info on Mr. Gunter (NOT WIKIPEDIA which as any smart person knows is a totally unreliable source of information. Even liberal collages won't accept papers submitted by their students because it's entered by anyone regardless of facts). and all I could find is that he is a spokesman for a bunch of anti nuclear organizations. No info regarding his background, his degrees in physics or chemistry or actual expertise in the construction of nuclear power stations. or he worked for the NRC and quit because he was threatened when he tried to expose negligence or a cover up of a nuclear accident, anything. Quite perplexing that The Hook would be quoting someone as basically an authority when he has no visible background to be an authority. He's just another environmentalist who cares more about the snail darter than people.