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EPRI Groundwater Protection Workshop and NEI RETS-REMP Workshop Recap

Submitted by on July 4, 2013 – 9:11 amNo Comment

By Cameron Guy, Locus Technologies

2013 proved to be a momentous year for both the EPRI Groundwater Protection Workshop and the NEI RETS-REMP Workshop. This year’s event, held from June 25-27 in Westminster, Colorado, marked the first time these two groups combined for two days, giving attendees the option to attend multiple presentations.

Combining the NEI RETS-REMP with the EPRI Groundwater Protection Workshop solidified a theme to unify efforts as utilities gain experience implementing protection programs. For decommissioning and facility operations, proactive work management of leaks and spills from systems and components is crucial to mitigate potential impact on the environment. The dual event reinforced that stronger communication should exist between those responsible for the physical components of a plant, and the environmental monitoring personnel responsible for sampling, monitoring and protection. Over the three day period, a series of presentations and panel discussions were conducted that included the input of more than 150 nuclear power industry professionals. The open format of the forum allowed utility personnel to openly discuss effluent and monitoring issues, alongside with regulatory personnel from state and federal agencies.

There was a strong focus on tritium in groundwater, and how this could pose a serious problem for nuclear plants. If tritium is detected, it could indicate degraded underground components or unmonitored leakage from surface structures. However, groundwater protection programs can provide early detection, reporting, and mitigation of radioactive leaks. With strong engagement, these programs can continue to build confidence in safety and environmental stewardship at nuclear sites. To remain viable, the nuclear industry depends on the proper monitoring of radioactive effluents. The information presented in these workshops beneficially mitigates risk by demonstrating how to proactively solve problems and serve as a reminder to encourage open communication across the industry.

Since the inception of groundwater protection programs in the nuclear industry, the data generated has proved essential for demonstrating groundwater environmental safety to the NRC, stakeholders and the public, as well as assisting to minimize the impact from site releases and preparing management activities. One such tool presented at the event was Locus Technologies’ Environmental Information Management software. This web-based tool is currently in being used to manage environmental data at approximately 40% of the operating commercial U.S. nuclear power plants as well as a number of Department of Energy (DOE) facilities. By managing data from sampling events, monitoring wells and effluent testing, and combining them with maps and physical properties of a site, this tool allows for a holistic view of a facility to be generated. Also, information can be shared among all necessary stakeholders as the solution is cloud-based.

As the workshop came to a close, the focus turned toward the future, with new techniques for remediation, preparations for decommissioning, and potential future challenges. For example, the understanding of Carbon-14 dose pathways has evolved in recent years. Developing a technical base and guidance for better accuracy and precision of C-14 dose estimates will enhance REMP programs by monitoring this dosage source. Any such changes would affect operating plants, and may well influence action plans, so the attendees of this workshop will be keeping a close eye on this topic as it develops. This year’s NEI and EPRI workshop successfully united both groups by sharing common experiences and demonstrated that innovative technologies must be technically advanced, sustainable, energy efficient, and cost effective, for continued assurance that our future is being protected.

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