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Ameren continues to investigate, environmentalists react to radioactive water found on Callaway plant

Ameren continues to investigate, environmentalists react to radioactive water found on Callaway plant

Missouri Coalition for the Environment to send questions and concerns regarding the radioactive water to NRC

August 7th, 2014 in News

Ameren Missouri is still investigating the source of a leak it recently discovered at its Callaway Energy Center.

Ameren Missouri and federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) spokesmen said the contaminated groundwater is isolated to plant property and does not affect drinking water.

Ed Smith with Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) said he hasn't seen enough information to be convinced that the radioactivity is contained on Ameren Missouri property.

"Unless Ameren can establish and show that they have tested the groundwater off site, I don't think that Ameren can say that (it is contained) either. I'm not doubting their claim I just would like to know what they are basing that on," Smith said.

When recently checking equipment and systems at the plant, a routine procedure, Ameren found radioactive tritium and Cobalt-60, both byproducts of a nuclear reaction, in a water well near the nuclear plant's cooling towers on plant property. The amount found is higher than EPA standards for drinking water.

The contaminated groundwater was found in a well into which several pipes empty. The plant stopped the water flow from those pipes and started to investigate the situation.

Ameren Missouri released a statement that in part stated, "Callaway's redundant mechanisms for human and environmental safety operated as designed by detecting an issue, which is isolated on Ameren Missouri property. There is no threat to drinking water in the area. Safety is our top priority and the issue poses no impact on the health or safety of the public or Ameren Missouri employees."

Smith said the MCE has seen information only regarding testing to one well on plant property.

"What we do know is that there are tritium levels that were found in the groundwater eight times higher than the drinking water standard and to claim that it hasn't moved off site without demonstrating proof that it hasn't moved off site I think is a little premature," Smith said.

Ameren Missouri Spokesperson Bryan Daniels said the leak is contained to Ameren Missouri property.

"We are still investigating the cause of it and the scale of the issue," Daniels said. "It is Ameren Missouri property. This issue doesn't impact any area outside of Ameren Missouri property."

Smith said he could be wrong and doesn't know everything Ameren Missouri has done to investigate the situation.

The Callaway Energy Center reported the high chemical levels to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Daniels said Ameren Missouri has been transparent in immediately reporting the leak to the NRC and to DNR. Smith said Ameren is not required to report the leak and did so voluntarily.

MCE has reached out to DNR and the NRC to learn more, Smith said. He said they will be sending questions and concerns they have regarding the contaminated water at the plant to the NRC today.

NRC inspectors will conduct their own review of the response and situation, which the NRC will publish the results of in its quarterly inspection report. Ameren Missouri is still investigating the situation and has begun repair work.

Megan Favignano can be reached at (573) 826-2417 or megan@fultonsun.com.