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Tritium leaks at Nuclear plants

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posted on Jun, 23 2011 @ 11:17 AM
Tritium leaks at Nuclear plants

The AP has been reporting over the past several days that 75% of all US nuclear plants have been leaking tritium from their cooling water systems.

Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Several notable leaks above the EPA drinking-water limit for tritium happened five or more years ago, and from underground piping: 397,000 picocuries per liter at Tennessee's Watts Bar unit in 2005 — 20 times the EPA standard; four million at the two-reactor Hatch plant in Georgia in 2003 — 200 times the limit; 750,000 at Seabrook in New Hampshire in 1999 — nearly 38 times the standard; and 4.2 million at the three-unit Palo Verde facility in Arizona, in 1993 — 210 times the drinking-water limit.

Braidwood has leaked more than six million gallons of tritium-laden water in repeated leaks dating back to the 1990s — but not publicly reported until 2005. The leaks were traced to pipes that carried limited, monitored discharges of tritium into the river.

Tritium measuring 1,500 picocuries per liter turned up in an offsite drinking well at a home near Braidwood. Though company and industry officials did not view any of the Braidwood concentrations as dangerous, unnerved residents took to bottled water and sued over feared loss of property value. A consolidated lawsuit was dismissed, but Exelon ultimately bought some homes so residents could leave

Yikes! Sounds scary, buy like many scientific issues reported by our technically illiterate fifth estate I got to thinking and came up with some questions.

1. What is tritium
2. How much tritium are we talking about
3. What are the relative comparisons

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that has three neutrons. Tritium is generated in nuclear reactors by neutron activation of lithium-6.

As to how much tritium we are talking about, I suppose it depends on the specific case, but lets look Braidwood example because there seems to be some good data on it. In 1998 a faulty valve caused the release of some 3 million gallons (12 million liters) of contaminated water. Concentrations were not given, but the article did mention that a private well on a property nearby measured tritium at a concentration of 1500 picocuries per liter.

For some perspective on that, the EPA’s standards for tritium in groundwater, per the Safe Drinking Water Act, is 20,000 picocuries per liter. Consuming 2 liters of water a day with 20,000 picocuries per liter of tritium every day for 50 years would give the drinker an additional 4 millirems of dose. According to the linear no threshold model for radiation exposure, an additional 4 millirems per year would cause an extra 3.5 cancers in a population of 100,000. One dental x-ray or a one way trip from LA to Boston per year puts people at the exposure risk.

But back to Braidwood. For the sake of this analysis, lets say that because of dilution, the concentration at the source was two orders of magnitude greater than the sample well … heck, just to be conservative, lets say it was four orders of magnitude more. That means the estimated concentration of tritium from the 3 million gallon leak was 1.5 million picocuries per liter.

So what does that even mean?

An Olympic sized swimming pool has 660,000 US gal or 2.5 million liters. If I were to take one whole gram of pure tritium and pour it into the pool, the pool would be contaminated at 332,000,000 picocuries per liter. Appling this to our Braidwood case, that means assuming 12 million liters of contaminated water at a contamination level of 1.5 million picocuries per liter means approximately .0094 grams of tritium, or 9.4 milligrams, of tritium were releases.

A milligram of tritium contains .1 curies of radiation. To convert this 9. 4 milligrams of tritium into curies we get .94 curries for the amount of radiation in the Braidwood leak.

So what does .94 curries mean?

Tritium is used in some self-illuminating exit signs. The amount varies by model and manufacturer but 20 curies seems to be “normal”.

So, one of the worst leaks on record, Braidwood, leaked the equivalent of 1/20th of a self-illuminating exit sign, and this is really a matter of earth shaking consequence?

posted on Jun, 23 2011 @ 11:21 AM
reply to post by SirMike

Funny, I find it interesting that the is reporting on it..

Don't ask me why I visit that site!

edit on 23-6-2011 by rstregooski because: link

posted on Jun, 23 2011 @ 11:35 AM
Very interesting article! The comments were even better
Better than I could say it anyway - mind if I share my favorites?

Quote from pamma
Is anybody else smart enough to understand what the socialist/communist AP did with this? "Tritium is relatively short-lived and penetrates the body weakly through the air compared to other radioactive contaminants. Each of the known releases has been less radioactive than a single X-ray.

The main health risk from tritium, though, would be in drinking water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tritium should measure no more than 20,000 picocuries per liter in drinking water. The agency estimates seven of 200,000 people who drink such water for decades would develop cancer."

Thought so. Just a clue--the "airborne" bit was diversion, as no airborne tritium was at issue. Then we were told by the AP that the EPA, which refused to monitor radiation on the W. Coast after Fukushima because it said it was way, way far away and there was no serious breach, "no worry" about the tritium in water, either. Btw, chest w-rays are not remotely similar in radiation or effect, to cesium, tritium, etc. Apples and oranges.
Liars. Japan, way way belatedly, admitted multiple meltdowns at multiple plants, that occurred right at the beginning. Japan delayed its disclosures for months, and buried them in back page stories. Query: if our vaunted EPA didn't have any info other than what we read in the news, i.e., Japan's lies, why are we spending billions on it? I knew about Japan's meltdown ages ago because I can read, and the internet gives info our govt. wants to hide. I'll betcha this AP story was only posted because there's a big report coming, and govt/EPA/nuke agency and industry wants to get out ahead so you won't understand you're going to die of cancer due to tritium in your water, so you'll yawn at the report--if you can even find it--it won't be in this excuse for news. Drink up. At least 8 glasses/day.

Nope, I'm actually not smart enough
But I loved the ending (bolded)

Quoted from skyw9lker
How many nuclear meltdowns does it take to make the entire "Atomic Energy is harmless and wonderful" crowd glow in the friggin' dark?

Yeah, I thought so, too.

I answered one, did you answer one?
apparently its going to take more ♥

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