Yet Another Nuclear Leak, Radioactive Tritium Tracer Discovered


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According to recent studies, Tritium is leaking into Biscayne Bay. Levels are up to 215 times higher than in normal ocean water. Tritium is a “tracer” for nuclear material from either a leak or a spill. As a radioactive element it represents one of hydrogens isotopes. However, the study failed to show the detrimental effects Tritium will have the public and marine life in the area.

The study comes two weeks after a Tallahassee judge ordered the utility and the state to clean up the nuclear plant’s cooling canals after concluding that they had caused a massive underground saltwater plume to migrate west, threatening a wellfield that supplies drinking water to the Florida Keys. The judge also found the state failed to address the pollution by crafting a faulty management plan.

“How much damage is that cooling canal system causing the bay is a question to be answered,” said Everglades Law Center attorney Julie Dick, who had not had a chance to review the report. “There are a lot more unknowns than knowns and it just shows how much more attention we need to be paying to that cooling canal system.”

County commissioners, who have kept a close eye on the canals and objected to the state’s management plan, ordered the additional monitoring of bay water last year. The commission is scheduled to discuss the canals, along with another study by University of Miami hydrologist David Chin examining problems linked to adding more water to the canals, at a meeting Tuesday.

FPL officials declined to comment Monday evening.

This is one of several incidents in recent months of nuclear material leaking due to failures in nuclear power plants.

A serious problem persists around the country, more than 48 of the 65 nuclear sites are leaking tritium. Aging canals are to blame for this incident. In 2011 a whistle blower claimed that there are pipes that have not been inspected in 30 to 40 years, and are not regulated. Which is why there are so many ongoing leaks.

Just for comfort… “The public health and safety impact of this is next to zero,” said Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer of the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute. “This is a public confidence issue.”

Anything radioactive is toxic and dangerous to the environment. It is not just a prolific issue it is a public safety issue. Nuclear waste could very well be to blame for the extreme rise in cancer cases over the past few years. Leaks like these are all usually just swept under the rug, just like the health risks of millions of Americans.

The amount of tritium in ground water is as high as 3.2 million picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in ground water. (A curie is a unit of radiation emission; a picocurie is one trillionth of a curie.) This is 160 times higher than the standard set back in 1977 by the fledgling EPA—and the NRC has made measurements even higher at some nuclear facilities.

And there is at least 400,000 cubic meters of tritiated water now in storage at Japan’s wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, which suffered multiple meltdowns after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. A suite of technologies there filter out 62 different radioactive particles created by the Fukushima meltdowns—leaving out only tritium, largely because it is difficult and expensive to separate water from water. Companies such as Kurion, which already helps filter out radionuclides like cesium, suggest that they have a solution if the Japanese want to eliminate the tritium as well. “It’s up to TEPCO [the utility] and the Japanese people to decide what they want to do with that water,” says materials scientist Gaetan Bonhomme, vice president of strategic planning and initiatives at Kurion. “It is a radionuclide and it does cause public concern.”

Tritium is used in nuclear weapons.

Although large quantities of tritium have been released into the environment, the dose to humans is small. Tritium was disbursed throughout the world by atmospheric nuclear weapons tests that took place from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s. The inventory of tritium in the atmosphere peaked in 1963 and has been decreasing rapidly since then. Levels of naturally occurring tritium in the atmosphere produced by cosmic rays are constant, and it is projected that levels of manmade tritium will be comparable to natural tritium by 2030.

According to The US National Academy of Sciences Beir-III, published in 1980.

Because tritium (hydrogen-3) is a potential pollutant from nuclear-energy production, it’s effect on development  [of unborn babies]  has been the subject of a number of studies.

Tritiated water (HTO) is a common chemical state of tritium, and it has easy and rapid access to living cells, including those of the embryo or foetus.

HTO administered in the drinking water to rats throughout pregnancy produced significant decreases in relative weights of brain, testes, and probably ovaries, and increases in norepinephrine concentration, at doses of 10 microcuries per millilitre (estimated at 3 rads per day), and produced weight decreases in a number of  [other]  organs at higher doses.

Because the length of the critical period   [of vulnerability to damage]   for various organs is not known, the total damaging dose cannot yet be estimated. Relative brain weight was found to be reduced at only 0.3 rads per day (one microcurie per millilitre of drinking water) when exposure began at the time of the mother’s conception.

Even lower exposures (0.003 rads per day and 0.03 rads per day) have been implicated in the induction of behavioral damage, such as delayed development of the righting reflex and depressed spontaneous activity. However, because the data fail to show a clear dose dependence, there is some doubt about the validity of this suggestion.

Tritiated drinking water has been used to study the effects of radiation on development of a sensitive cell type, the oocyte. Oocyte counts were made in serial sections of exposed and control animals. In squirrel monkeys continuously exposed from conception to birth, the LD-50 was 0.5 microcuries per millilitre of body water, giving a foetal dose rate estimated at 0.11 rads per day. Because the sensitive period for oocyte development is probably the last trimester, the LD-50 was calculated to be 5 rads. In the mouse, the sensitive period occurs during the first two weeks after birth, and, by a similar calculation, the LD-50 from tritiated drinking water at that time is slightly below 5 rads.

It greatly appears as though yet another cover up is going on. Tritium has potential to be dangerous to health, and the EPA does not care.

Like all radioactive substances, tritium is a carcinogen, a mutagen, and a teratogen. Laboratory work with mice and rats has clearly shown that tritium is particularly potent as a mutagen and teratogen.

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Editors Note: The publishing’s in 1980 are written by Gordon Edwards.

Gordon Edwards was born in Canada in 1940, and graduated from the University of Toronto in 1961 with a gold medal in Mathematics and Physics and a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. At the University of Chicago he obtained two master’s degrees, one in Mathematics (1962) and one in English Literature (1964). In 1972, he obtained a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Queen’s University.[1]

From 1970 to 1974, he was the editor of Survival magazine. In 1975 he co-founded the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, and has been its president since 1978. Edwards has worked widely as a consultant on nuclear issues and has been qualified as a nuclear expert by courts in Canada and elsewhere.[1]

In 1972-73, Dr. Edwards was the Assistant Director of a nationwide study of the Mathematical Sciences in Canada conducted under the auspices of the Science Council of Canada.

Works Cited

Jenny. “FPL nuclear plant canals leaking into Biscayne Bay, study confirms.” Miami Herald. . (2016): . .

NBC. “Radioactive Tritium leaking at 48 nuclear sites.” NBC News. . (2011): . .

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences' BEIR-III Committee, Gordon Edwards. “The Effects on Populations of Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation.” CCNR. . (1980): Reference #2. .

David Biello. “Is Radioactive Hydrogen in Drinking Water a Cancer Threat?” Scientific American. . (2014): . .