I’ve been following the developments at Vermont Yankee with some interest, and I’m having a hard time figuring out just what’s happening. It hasn’t received much coverage in the mainstream media – none as far as I know, but I might have missed it. Here are the basics:

A month ago, some monitoring wells near the plant registered the presence of radioactive tritium in the groundwater. Company officials denied they had anything to do with it. Keep in mind this plant is in rural Vermont, surrounded by a few cows and bucolic countryside. Tritium doesn’t grow on trees.

The first theory was that possibly some of the radioactive stuff got into discharge pipes. The company denied (under oath, no less) that no such pipes existed.

OOPS! A week later they discovered that such pipes did exist, but still denied it could have come from there, and, in fact, some tests showed that maybe it didn’t come from those pipes after all.

More tests, and this time they showed the radioactivity registered to nine times the level they had registered the first time.

The numbers are a little esoteric, but bear with me.

In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences said that any exposure to stuff like tritium has the potential to cause cancer. The state of California set a limit of 400 picocuries per liter as a safety limit. Apparently not wanting to inconvenience the nuclear industry, the Environmental Protection Agency set their limit at 20,000 picocuries per liter.

The tests at Vermont Yankee this week came in at 775,000 picocuries per liter!

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s response?

Not to worry! There’s plenty of cushion built into those numbers. Those levels, according to one of their spokespeople, pose no threat to public health or the environment.

I’m glad they cleared that up, because now I feel a whole lot better.