AN INVESTIGATION is under way after “very low levels” of a radioactive substance were found at Torness Power Station.

Radioactive tritium was found in water contained in part of the drainage system at the nuclear power plant, near Dunbar, on February 11.

The issue has since been reported to both the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the UK Government’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

A spokeswoman for EDF Energy, which runs Torness, told the Courier: “On February 11 checks carried out on water in the sumps of the active drain system at Torness Power Station found very low levels of tritium. Checks earlier in February had shown no tritium present.

“We immediately contacted SEPA and the ONR to report the findings.

“Both agencies have been kept regularly informed during the investigations.

“Subsequent checks showed that the levels of tritium found in the sump water posed no risk.

“The water in the sumps was safely removed and disposed of via the authorised discharge routes.

“The sumps are sealed, preventing an unauthorised discharge to the environment from this source.

“The subsequent investigation is concentrating on one of the pipelines used for effluent discharge.

“The pipelines are part the site’s normal authorised discharge routes; the three other pipes have been checked with no issues found.

“This particular pipe has been taken out of service until the investigations are satisfactorily concluded.” Tritium is a naturally occurring radioactive form of hydrogen that is produced in the atmosphere when cosmic rays collide with air molecules.

As a result, tritium is found in very small or trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world.

It is also a by-product of the production of electricity by nuclear power plants.

Tritium emits a weak form of radiation, a low-energy beta particle similar to an electron.

The tritium radiation does not travel very far in air and tritium radiation cannot penetrate the skin.

However, the news alarmed Jason Rose, the Scottish Green MP candidate for East Lothian.

He said: “Over the years there have many worrying leaks and shutdowns at the plant and this latest fault and clean-up operation simply underlines the fact that the plant is well past its prime.

“Those of us who have to live with a nuclear plant on our doorstep need assurances that more effort will be made to prevent these sorts of serious incidents.

“Meantime, I remain extremely concerned that there will be no public scrutiny of plans to extend the operating life of the plant and no effort by local or national government to prepare a smooth transition for workers and the economy.

“Local people should have a say in what happens next at Torness and government should have to consider the environmental impact compared to developing alternative energy sources.”