Routine Releases

Every nuclear reactor routinely releases radioactivity as part of daily operation. This means that nuclear plant workers and people and animals in the surrounding communities are exposed to cancer-causing radioactive isotopes in their air and water.



Joseph Mangano/RPHP report on radioactivity releases from Palisades and increased death rates in the surrounding area

Entergy's problem-plagued Palisades atomic reactor in Covert, MI, on the Lake Michigan shorelineJoseph Mangano, Executive Director of Radiation and Public Health Project, has published a report, commissioned and endorsed by Beyond Nuclear, Don't Waste Michigan, Michigan Safe Energy Future, and Nuclear Energy Information Service. Based on government data and documentation on radioactivity releases from Palisades, as well as area health statistics, the report's major findings raise serious questions about the connections between radioactivity releases and increased overall death and cancer mortality rates.

Palisades received a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) rubber-stamp for 20 extended years of operations -- out to 2031 -- back in 2007, despite hard-fought resistance that sought to block it.

Press release


As stated in the press release:

"...Mangano’s main findings include that the Van Buren County death rate from all causes was 3 to 6 percent below the state in the 1970s and early 1980s, but has risen since, to a level 12.5% greater than Michigan (2003-2010).  This change suggests that 1,330 “excess” deaths have occurred in the county since the Palisades atomic reactor started operating in 1971.  Elevated levels were observed for all age groups (especially children/young adults), both genders, and all major causes of death..." (emphasis added).

Beyond Nuclear pamphlet "Routine Radiation Releases from U.S. Atomic Reators: What Are The Dangers?" Note that the water discharge pathway photo was taken (by Gabriela Bulisova) at the Palisades atomic reactor, discharging into Lake Michigan. Although the atmospheric discharge pathway was photographed at the Callaway atomic reactor in Missouri, Palisades has a very similar vent attached to its containment building for aerial discharges of radioactive gases and vapors).

Beyond Nuclear report (published April 2010) by Reactor Oversight Project Director Paul Gunter, "Leak First, Fix Later," with a chapter on Palisades' tritium leaks into groundwater, first reported by Entergy Nuclear in 2007.


Entergy's Palisades leaks 79 gallons of radioactive water into Lake Michigan, forced to shut down

Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shore in southwestern MIAs reported by the Holland Sentinel, Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor has yet again sprung a leak, this time spilling 79 gallons of supposedly "very slightly radioactive water" into Lake Michigan, the headwaters of 20% of the world's surface fresh water, and drinking water for 40 million people downstream. 

Such unintentional leaks -- which have included tritium leaks into groundwater -- increase the radiological burden already borne by the public and environment in the downwind and downstream area, due to "permitted," intentional, "routine radiation releases" from Palisades (note that the photo of the water discharge pathway in Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet was taken at Palisades itself!).

Entergy and NRC spokespersons' repeated claims of no safety significance to the public flies in the face of decades of findings, as by the National Academy of Science (most recently in 2005), that any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how small, carries a health risk of cancer, and that these health risks accumulate over a lifetime.

U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) made public the serious nature of this particular leaking tank in June 2012. His information came from very courageous Palisades whistleblowers, and their attorney, Billie Pirner Garde. The leak, from the 300,000 gallon Safety Injection Refueling Water (SIRW) storage tank located directly above the control, began in mid-2011, and was flowing through the ceiling, and being captured in buckets in the safety critical control room, full of electrical circuitry and equipment that cannot get wet. The leak was concealed not only from the public and media, but even from the NRC's own Chairman, Greg Jaczko, as he toured Palisades on May 25, 2012. NRC later granted Entergy an exemption in 2012 to allow continued operations despite the degraded condition of the SIRW storage tank. 

In recent weeks, Beyond Nuclear learned from NRC officials that the now two-year-old leak has continued at a 0.5 to 1 gallon per day rate. But Saturday's leakage rate, which forced the reactor to shut down, was at 90 gallons per day, as documented in NRC's event notification report. Palisades' SIRW storage tank, just like the rest of the plant, is 46 years old, and obviously showing severe signs of "breakdown phase" age-degration, of increasing risk. 

The Detroit Free PressEnformable Nuclear NewsKalamazoo GazetteMichigan RadioWSJM RadioWKZO Radio,WWMT TV-3 KalamazooDetroit News,  and WOOD TV-8 Grand Rapids have reported on this story.

Beyond Nuclear issued a media statement, challenging flippant Entergy and NRC claims that this leak carries "absolutely" no risk to human health and safety. NRC's Region 3 spokeswoman has been exposed making false claims regarding radioactivity leaks more than once at Midwestern reactors in just the past year, prompting the demand for an investigation by a member of Congress. Last year, U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) demanded an NRC investigation into Mytling's downplaying of a reactor leak at the troubled Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo. In addition, Chicago watchdog group Nuclear Energy Information Service, via a Freedom of Information Act Request to the State of Illinois Dept. of Nuclear Safety, documented that Mytling's flip assurance -- that a radioactive steam leak at the Byron atomic reactor, in Jan. 2012, must have contained exceedingly low levels of hazardous radioactive tritium, as radiation monitors had not detected any -- was baseless and misleading, as no real-time tritium monitoring capability existed at the plant. Similar questions must now be asked of Mytling's questionable assurances that radioactivity levels in the water leaked into Lake Michigan were below detectable levels. Are there radiation monitors in place to verify such flip assurances?


Environmental coalition raises cumulative health concerns in resistance against Fermi 3

NRC file photo of Fermi 2 on the Lake Erie shore, where Detroit Edison wants to build a giant new reactorOn Feb. 13, 2012, attorney Terry Lodge of Toledo, on behalf of an environmental coalition, filed a rebuttal to challenges by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff and Detroit Edison. The agency and utility were challenging contentions filed by the environmental coalition on Jan. 11, 2012 concerning NRC's Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) about the new Fermi 3 reactor, a proposed General Electric-Hitachi ESBWR (so-called "Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor"). The new contentions involve such issues as impacts on endangered and threatened plant and animal species, and their critical habitats, from the overall Fermi 3 proposal, as well as related sub-proposals, such as the contemplated transmission line corridor; radiological health impacts on the Monroe County community from Fermi 3, which has already suffered a half century of radiological and toxic chemical harm from the Fermi 1 and Fermi 2 reactors, as well as a number of giant coal burning power plants; and impacts on the Walpole Island First Nation, just 53 miles away across the U.S./Canadian border. Joe Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Human Health Project, serves as expert witness for the environmental coalition. The coalition includes Beyond Nuclear, Citizen Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Citizens for Alternatives to Chemical Contamination, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter.

Fermi 2 has not suffered an acute, catastrophic radioactivity release due to a major accident (God forbid), although it has had a number of close calls over the decades. But it does release radiation "routinely" on a nearly daily basis. In addition, large-scale releases have occurred, as after Christmas Day 1993, when millions of gallons of radioactively contaminated water were discharged into Lake Erie in the aftermath of a "turbine missile explosion" at Fermi 2. Fermi 1 suffered a partial meltdown on October 5, 1966, as chronicled in John G. Fuller's classic We Almost Lost Detroit.

Beyond Nuclear has compiled all the filings relating to the battle over the Fermi 3 Draft Environmental Impact Statement.


Erin Brockovich warns about radioactive "Hot Water" releases from U.S. atomic reactors

CNN interviewed famous environmentalist Erin Brockovich (pictured, left) about her new novel, Hot Water, on the health risks of radioactivity leaks into the environment from nuclear power plants across the U.S. Brockovich warns that radioactivity ingestion by children, as evidenced through such projects as the "Tooth Fairy," could begin to explain cancer epidemics in certain locales nationwide. Beyond Nuclear has long warned its not just accidental ("unmonitored, uncontrolled") leaks of hazardous radioactivity, but also "routine releases" (supposedly "controlled and monitored") allowed and permitted by government regulators as a daily part of atomic reactors' operations, that need to stopped. Children are significantly more vulnerable to radiation's hazards, as revealed by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research's "Healthy from the Start" campaign. 

Erin Brockovich became a household name, once portrayed by Julia Roberts in a major motion picture about her battle to stop Pacific Gas and Electric releases of toxic chemicals into groundwater from fossil fuel power plants.


NRC: "amount of radioactive materials released from underground piping system leaks has been small relative to...permitted discharges"

The following excerpt from a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report entitled "NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION: Oversight of Underground Piping Systems Commensurate with Risk, but Proactive Measures Could Help Address Future Leaks," requested by U.S. Representatives Markey (D-MA) and Welch (D-VT), and released in the wake of an A.P. investigative series entitled "AGING NUKES," is very revealing about "routine releases of radioactivity"

"NRC's regulations allow certain levels of radioactive materials to be discharged into the environment. As part of its license application, a licensee performs calculations of its expected releases, and NRC reviews these calculations to verify their validity and conformance to NRC requirements. NRC's review and verification are documented in reports, and the licensees are required to monitor their discharges. Most of the systems used to discharge these radioactive materials are not classified as "safety related." According to NRC officials, the amount of radioactive materials from underground piping system leaks has been small relative to these permitted discharges. Furthermore, the officials noted that a leak of tritium in and of itself is not a violation of NRC requirements."

Such a stark admission -- a truth often obscured by NRC pronouncements or lack thereof -- undergirds the points made in Beyond Nuclear's pamphlet on "routine radioactive releases," as well as its report, Leak First, Fix Later, about radioactivity leaks from underground pipes.