Sucking Tritium

That would be me, sucking tritium, living as I do about 70 miles away from a nuclear plant in South Haven, MI, that just released some radioactive steam. (h/t wizardkitten)

Entergy’s Palisades nuclear plant near South Haven is venting radioactive steam into the environment as part of an unplanned shutdown triggered by an electrical accident.

This shutdown, which began Sunday evening, came just five days after the plant restarted from a shutdown that was caused by a leak in the plant’s cooling system.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokeswoman Prema Chandrithal said that the current shutdown happened because an object slipped during work on a circuit breaker and caused an arc that took out power for one of two DC electrical systems that power safety valves and other devices.

So last week, they shut down because of a leak in the cooling system.

The Palisades nuclear power plant was shut down Friday afternoon after a water leak of more than 10 gallons per minute was detected in the system that cools the plant’s nuclear reactor.

The plant was shut down shortly before 3 p.m. because the leak exceeded the plant’s technical specifications, spokesman Mark Savage said. The plant filed a notification of an “unusual event” with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The likely cause of the problem is a leak on a valve in the primary cooling system, but that won’t be known for certain until workers can get in and do a thorough evaluation, Savage said.

So as part of their attempt to fix that problem, they dropped something (I’m envisioning Homer Simpson dropping a wrench and knocking out power), which cut off power to some safety valves, which resulted in radioactive steam upwind (but also south) from me.

Um, isn’t this power plant supposed to have redundant backup electrical systems? You know? The ones we checked after Fukushima reminded us this stuff isn’t child’s play?

12 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    An awful lot of money is spent making reactors “safe”. Much less money is spent on the support systems.

    Cooling is redundant, but the electricity that powers it likely comes in over one tower.

    Power is backed up by generators that may not have sufficient capacity to run the entire site. And there’s no tertiary backup.

    The swipe readers won’t work if there isn’t power, so if all you can run is the cooling how do you open the doors? Gotta find that key that nobody has ever used….

    If office air conditioning critical? If not, what happens when those computers go into overtemp shutdown?

    Outside water. Outside sewer. Access to the plant if the main road is compromised.

    But don’t worry, Marcy. Tritium in such small quantities is probably offically good for you.

    Boxturtle (The cynic in me says there was more released into the lake than the air)

  2. Kathryn in MA says:

    Boxturtle, i found your list quite valuable – can you expand your analysis or do a post over at the other site?

  3. joberly says:

    Maybe if the tritium release drifts southward toward the oddly-named “Four Winds” Casino at New Buffalo, Mich., the slots will loosen up a bit…In the meantime, hope all will be safe in WestMich.

  4. JohnLopresti says:

    circa 1989 there was a Sacramento plant called rancho seco which voters instructed the city utility district to decomission because people’s electricity bills clearly had increased over the 15 years following plant launch. It turned out that a lot of accidents and incidents cost more than operating a plant based on then-conventional electricity generation. The municipal utility leader resigned after the popular vote and began working in the solar industry. Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has followed several events which clarified the need for upgraded planning and design in fission based electric generating facilities; those events include 9-11, Fukushima, and new assessments of the VA plant following the August 2011 quake. Two UCS links, July 13, 2011; August 31, 2011.

  5. ApacheTrout says:


    Ironic, you should mention the big yellow man. Several years back, Springfield, VT was named as the home of the Simpsons, in part because of its proximity to Vermont Yankee, another Entergy nuc-u-lar plant incapable of containing its tritium supply.

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