Thursday, December 28, 2006

Barack Obama and Nuclear Power (Groundwater Leaks)

Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill.) wants to require reporting of unplanned radioactive releases. He believes the current self-regulation initiative is inadequate and has allowed tritium leaks to occur with a delay in the public finding out about it. The Nuclear Energy Institute's (NEI) "Groundwater Protection Initiative," describes the current voluntary policy, which aims to improve the handling of inadvertent releases of radioactive material into groundwater at the nation's 103 nuclear power plants. Under the initiative, all nuclear power companies will implement site-specific plans to ensure timely detection and responses when radioactive materials are released to groundwater starting in 2006.

The Nuclear Release Notice Act is backed in the Senate by Obama and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and in the House by Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Ill.). It would require notification of federal, state and county officials when radioactive releases exceed federal limits or when two occur within a two-year span from the same source, process or equipment. It would "impose real penalties on plants" that fail to make notification. According to NEI, the voluntary initiative goes beyond the bill. The NEI initiative, approved unanimously by the trade group's membership, stems in part from Exelon Nuclear's acknowledgement that radioactive tritium spilled at Braidwood Generating Station in southwest Will County between 1996 and 2003, causing groundwater contamination. Exelon is being criticized for waiting years to tell the public about the spills. (Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility)

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