Hennigan Engineering was called upon to be part of the mitigation and “Root Cause Analysis” for a tritium release into the groundwater that occurred at a nuclear power station in the Eastern United States. Hennigan was a key participant in daily meetings with facility management at all levels as well as shareholders. Hennigan was responsible for drain system investigations, drain system clearing and the development of a detailed Report of Findings that was included in the facility’s Root Cause Analysis report to the NRC.
Radioactive hydrogen is called tritium (³H). The NRC takes any release of tritium from a nuclear facility very seriously as does the Environmental Protection Agency. Naturally occurring tritium is rare and is created by the interaction of the earth’s atmosphere and cosmic rays passing through the atmosphere. Significant amounts of tritium are generated by human activity, including the operation of nuclear power plants. Tritium contains up to 5 times more biological change per unit of radiation than gamma radiation. The NRC closely investigates any nuclear facility tritium release incident to ensure that Operators take immediate and appropriate action to mitigate the cause of any release (or potential release).
Subsequent to the discovery of a tritium release into the groundwater from the facility; Hennigan was engaged by the facility and immediately deployed a full crew and the equipment necessary to investigate the drain systems, identify defects, clear the drain systems and perform the necessary tasks to minimize the potential for a future release due to the same “Root Cause”. This included system mapping and the development and use of specialty tools including video inspection equipment, high pressure hydrolase tools and mechanical methods.
The final report developed and submitted by Hennigan Engineering was satisfactory to the NRC and others, such that the issuance of impending fines and / or temporary facility shut-down was avoided. Hennigan Engineering continues to support the facility on this matter by assisting with the implementation of the recommendations made by Hennigan Engineering’s “Report of Findings”
In as much as it was critical to successfully solve the problem, it was also necessary to solve the problem under the constraint of a very tight schedule while at the same time minimizing costs. Hennigan Engineering efficiently completed the work within the required schedule and also within the budget available. Much of this work took place in very challenging conditions including high temperatures, Locked High Radiation areas and in very tight difficult spaces. Despite these challenges; the work was completed safely; without injury of any kind to any person involved with the work.