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Fed officials watching Kewaunee nuke plant

KEWAUNEE -- Federal regulators say they're keeping an eye on a small amount of a radioactive contaminant in the ground underneath the Kewaunee Nuclear Power Plant, but they say there's no threat to public health.

Tritium forms both naturally and is found in water storage areas of nuclear power plants. Leaks of relatively large amounts of tritium have caused major concerns at other plants, and now the operators of the Kewaunee nuclear facility have found smaller amounts underneath their plant along Lake Michigan.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is aware of the discovery.

Jan Strasma, NRC spokesman, says the public is not at risk. He says the levels are quite low and there is no measurable tritium outside the plant itself from the environmental monitoring wells and other collection point.

He says there's no hazard to the public, plant personnel or the environment at this point.

Strasma says several NRC staff members and the plant owner, Dominion, are investigating the source of the tritium at Kewaunee. He says it could quite possibly be a leak sometime in the past, and there doesn't appear to be ongoing leaks associated with it. He says it has originated within the plant.

Last year, Dominion took over Kewaunee from two Wisconsin utilities, following a controversial sale eventually approved by the Public Service Commission.

At Kewaunee, the tritium has been found within underground shafts that monitor whether the plant buildings are settling.

The leak has caught the attention of the anti-nuclear group Nukewatch, which says it's waiting to hear the rest of the story.