Like a decayed flotilla of rickety steamers, at least 27 of America's 104 aging atomic reactors are known to be leaking radioactive tritium, which is linked to cancer if inhaled or ingested through the throat or skin.
The fallout has been fiercest at Vermont Yankee, where a flood of cover-ups has infuriated and terrified near neighbors who say the reactor was never meant to operate more than 30 years, and must now shut.
In 2007 one of Yankee's 22 cooling towers simply collapsed due to rot.
Now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed tritium levels in a monitoring well at Vernon to be 3.5 times the federal safety standard. The leaks apparently came from underground pipes whose very existence was recently denied by VY officials in under-oath testimony at a public hearing. Vermont's pro-nuclear Republican Governor Jim Douglas has termed the event "a breach of trust that cannot be tolerated."