TVA plant under investigation after tritium found in water - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TVA plant under investigation after tritium found in water

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN. (WRCB)  --  The Tennessee Valley Authority's Sequoyah Nuclear Plant is under investigation after a small amount of tritium was found in the ground water.

"We tested the water where we discharged to the river, we didn't find any radioactivity at all there," says TVA Spokesman Ray Golden.  

Golden says tests found 23,000 picocuries of tritium in one of the 16 wells on site. That's 3,000 above the EPA's limit of 20,000 picocuries in drinking water.

"We think its related to an old spill of radioactive water that we had in 2003. We're trying to confirm that, the other possibility there would be some new or unknown leak," Golden says.

Tritium is a naturally occurring radioactive form of hydrogen. In cases like this its a byproduct of electricity which is given off from a nuclear power plant.

According to the EPA the most common way to ingest tritium is through drinking contaminated water. High levels of tritium can lead to an increased risk of developing cancer.

Those facts have nearby residents like Lauren Bowman a bit nervous.

"Especially if people weren't following up and making sure that it was ok," Bowman says.  

However, Golden maintains there is no immediate threat. He says if someone were to drink two liters of water with a picocurie count of 20,000 everyday for one year, the radiation exposure would equal only half of a dental X-ray.

Although it's a small amount, officials are working quickly to find out how it got there.

"I don't feel unsafe living over here in this area, but I'm glad that people are checking it out and making sure we're all safe since we do live so close," says Bowman.

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