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WMUR News (New Hampshire)

New Contamination Found At Vermont Yankee Nuclear Plant

Potentially Dangerous Element Found In Soil At Nuclear Plant


VERNON, Vt. - Calls for a shutdown of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant are being repeated after health officials said another chemical was found contaminating the plant's grounds.

Vermont Yankee said there was no public threat from the cesium 137 found in soil samples taken from the plant. But experts said the element is more dangerous than the tritium discovered in a recent leak.

The Vermont Department of Health said the samples had contamination levels 12 times higher than normal. A plant spokesman said it's unclear where it came from, saying that it could have been from a fuel failure eight years ago.

The news comes soon after Vermont Yankee discovered the source of tritium that was detected in monitoring wells.

Experts said cesium 137, a byproduct of nuclear fission, can potentially be dangerous.

"It has what's called a half life of about 30 years, meaning it will decay, it will transform itself into another element, which happens to be barium 137," said Dave McDonald of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. "And that, in turn, gives off gamma radiation, which is not friendly to people."

U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes, D-N.H., is calling again for the immediate shutdown of the reactor at Vermont Yankee.

"It's going to be up to the plant to show they are getting it right, and I think they need to shut down until they have found everything that needs to be found," Hodes said.

Vermont Yankee said the contaminated soil will soon be shipped off the site and disposed of in an appropriate area.

A public meeting has been planned to discuss the issues at the plant, but the time and location have not been determined.


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