By now, the average American has no excuse for not knowing how decrepit our infrastructure has become. Many of our roads, bridges, and dams are falling apart, and continue to be used long after their expected lifespan has expired. When any of these structures fail, you can expect plenty of casualties and mayhem.
But there’s only so much damage that a crumbling dam or bridge can do. The most frightening aspect of our infrastructure, is our electrical grid. Specifically, our nuclear power plants. If anything ever happened to those facilities, it would make any other infrastructure related disaster pale in comparison. And unfortunately, we may have just received a small taste of what that disaster might look like. A nuclear reactor was just shut down in New York, after a monitoring well detected a 65,000% increase in radiation levels.
ALBANY – New York will investigate the Indian Point Energy Center after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he learned that “radioactive tritium-contaminated water” leaked into the groundwater at the nuclear facility in Westchester County.
Cuomo, in a letter Saturday to the state Health Department and the Department of Environmental Conservation, called for the probe after he said Entergy Corp., the Buchanan plant’s owner, reported “alarming levels of radioactivity” at three monitoring wells.
While the facility reported that the contamination has not migrated off site and did not pose an immediate public health threat, Cuomo said that the incident requires a full investigation.
“Our first concern is for the health and safety of the residents close to the facility and ensuring the groundwater leak does not pose a threat,” said Cuomo, who lives in New Castle, Westchester County.
So the company that owns the power plant claims that the public has nothing to worry about, which is why they never alerted the surrounding communities. And yet, the governor wants a full investigation to see if the plant poses any health hazards. That’s reassuring. Some members of the State’s Assembly don’t seem to find it comforting either.
The findings of contamination drew harsh criticisms from state Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, who said in a released statement that this was not the “first time Entergy’s operation and maintenance has failed.” The nuclear power plant, Jaffee added, “cannot continue to operate as it has without a full and thorough investigation of this incident.”
“My primary concern is the potential impact this tritium-contaminated water may have on the health and safety of those who live nearby but also the impact this radioactive water may have on public health and our environment,” Jaffee said in the statement.
And she’s right. The Indian Point Energy Center should be a poster child for how decrepit our infrastructure is, because there have been countless age related issues in the facility over the past few years. Just last year a transformer exploded, a malfunctioning fan caused a reactor to shut down, and an electrical problem caused a different reactor to shut down for several weeks. There have been about 5 shutdowns over the past year, and to top it all off, the plant’s former supervisor was charged and fined for falsifying safety records the year before.
Not surprisingly, two of the reactors have passed their 40 year licensing period, which is how long most nuclear reactors were initially designed to last. And Indian Point Energy Center isn’t alone. Three quarters of America’s nuclear power plants have received 20 year extensions. It’s safe to say that what happened in New York last weekend is going to become a common occurrence all over the United States, and the worst has yet to be seen.