Most of the commercial nuclear power sites in the U.S. have leaked radioactive tritium, according to a recent investigation.
The Associated Press found that 48 of the 65 power stations in the U.S. had reported leaking tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen.
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) records blamed many of the leaks on corroded buried piping. At 37 of the sites, contamination to groundwater exceeded the federal drinking water standard.
While no public water supplies are known to have been contaminated, the leaks did reach the wells of homes in Illinois and Minnesota. In New Jersey, tritium was found in a discharge canal feeding Barnegat Bay.
The AP noted that the detection of tritium can also signal the release of even more harmful forms of radiation.
In 2007, cesium-137 was found along with tritium at the Fort Calhoun plant near Omaha, Nebraska. The Indian Point nuclear site near New York City was found to have leaked Strontium-90 two years before that.
The National Academy of Sciences said that any exposure to radiation can increase risks of cancer, but the NRC considers the leaks a public relations problem, not a health risk.
“The public health and safety impact of this is next to zero,” the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Tony Pietrangelo told AP. “This is a public confidence issue.”