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Radioactive kerosene exceeding federal limits for drinking water has seeped as far as 40 feet from five nuclear-waste storage trenches here, according to officials at the state-owned, federally managed site.

"It's out of the tanks," said John D. Chamberlain, spokesman for West Valley Nuclear Services Co. "Traces of plutonium and a number of different radionuclides" have been found in leakage from 1,000-gallon steel drums, he said Tuesday.

The radioactivity exceeds federal standards for radiation in drinking water, said Eileen Shepard, spokeswoman for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

A 900-foot-long "buffer system" trench will be built to help detect any spread of the kerosene, which is not a safety threat to the public, on-site workers or the environment, Chamberlain said. The first 200 feet is expected to be finished in several weeks.

Kerosene was used to extract reusable nuclear fuel at the former reprocessing plant, about a quarter of a mile from the tank site.

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