October 14, 2008 – 6:54 p.m.
John L. Gibbs worries what the release of radioactive water into the Guadalupe River would do to his cattle that drink from it.
The 72-year-old DuPont retiree owns the land adjacent to the proposed Exelon Nuclear plant and shares a portion of Linn Lake with the 11,500-acre site 12 miles south of Victoria.
“Any concentration at all with radioactive waste wouldn’t be good,” Gibbs said. “Good, clean water going in there is what you want.”
Gibbs saw that Exelon’s environmental report in its application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that: “Discharge of cooling basin blowdown water and treated radwaste effluent will be to a diffuser structure located approximately mid-channel of the Guadalupe River.”
Bald eagles, migratory birds and other wildlife use Gibbs’ land downstream of the discharge site. Friends camp out and fish from the river.
Gibbs wants to know just how they’ll be affected.
“It’s not going to harm anybody,” Bill Harris, Exelon’s community outreach manager, said.
Landowners won’t be affected by minute, periodic discharges as the releases would be monitored and in accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission permit requirements, Harris said. Landowners won’t need to be notified by such releases.
The purified effluent would have low levels of tritium, sometimes lower than natural levels, he said. Exelon operates its plant to keep radioactive releases as low as reasonably achievable, well below the maximum levels set by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Drinking two liters of water with 20,000 picocuries per liter every day for one year would give the same radiation as eating a baked potato every day for one year, Harris said.
Gibbs wondered how low flow levels in the river would affect concentration levels.
Exelon will conduct water sampling at the closest home and public water source downstream of the discharge site, Harris said. Vegetation, cow’s milk and air around the station would also be monitored.
A pipeline along the route of a heavy haul road would transport the discharge to the river, the application stated.
Exelon’s monitoring wells would reveal any leaks, Harris said.
Exelon developed the well monitoring system after discovering tritium leaks at its Braidwood plant in Illinois. By the time the monitoring system came online, tritium had seeped into the water table, but the leaks did not exceed federal drinking water standards.
Exelon now sets the benchmark for the rest of the industry, Harris said.
But Gibbs said that’s no guarantee the nuclear company won’t contaminate the groundwater. He doesn’t understand why such low concentrations of radioactive waste can’t be kept on the plant’s site.
“If they will drink what they’re putting in the river, then you’ll probably be OK,” Gibbs said. “I want to see them drinking it.”
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