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Wild Green

Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.

Leaky Pipes at Incontinent Nuclear Plants

 by Keith Goetzman

Tags: Keith Goetzman, environment, energy, nuclear power, nuclear energy, water pollution, radioactivity, nuclear power plants,

Michigan nuclear power plantNuclear power plants have a life expectancy of about 40 years. Many U.S. plants are near the end of that span—and like many humans at a similar stage, their plumbing is going to hell, writes Terry J. Allen in In These Times. “America’s nuclear power plants are more incontinent than a nonagenarian with an enlarged prostate,” she warns, noting that pipes at 27 of America’s 65 nuclear power sites have leaked radioactive material.

Allen notes that a leak was discovered this spring at the 38-year-old Vermont Yankee plant, which was the site of a fire in 2004 and a partially collapsed cooling tower in 2007. The Vermont legislature refused to relicense the facility beyond its 2012 license expiration, and just a couple of weeks ago Rep. Edward Markey (D.-Mass), the chairman of the House energy and environment subcommittee, cited Vermont Yankee as a poster child for derelict nuclear plants in a letter to the NRC that was reported by the Washington Independent:

Another nuclear plant leak in Vermont, reported by the Boston Globe the day before Markey sent his letter, had put an exclamation point on the issue. Tritium was discovered in a monitoring well outside the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth, and while the NRC said the leak wasn’t a threat to public health, the official line from Pilgrim wasn’t exactly reassuring:

Sources: In These Times, Washington Independent, Boston Globe

Image by AmyZZZ1, licensed under Creative Commons.