[ RadSafe ] FW: spam: FW: 'Exit' signs boost landfill radiati on levels
frantaj at aecl.ca
Mon Aug 28 12:32:53 CDT 2006
Steve & Radsafers, you're going to "love" this one.....
Canada needs much tougher rules on tritium
The Ottawa Citizen, 27 August 2006
Re: Federal agency shuts down Pembroke firm, Aug. 19.
This article on SRB Technologies stated that tritium is a "weakly
radioactive form of hydrogen." This may lead readers to question why the
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ordered the company to cease its
operations, which have contaminated groundwater, soil and vegetation.
For 15 years, SRB Technologies has emitted extremely high amounts of tritium
into a residential neighborhood in Pembroke -- in some years, as much as 50
per cent of the total from all sources (mostly nuclear reactors) in Canada.
Tritium ends up as radioactive water (HTO, or tritiated water) in air, soil,
plants and water. Pembroke residents inhale HTO as water vapor, absorb it
through their skin, drink it, and ingest it in garden produce. Once inside
the body, tritium travels anywhere water does, including the brain and
nervous system, reproductive organs, and the placenta of a pregnant woman.
It becomes incorporated into long-lived organic compounds such as DNA. With
a 121/2-year half-life, tritium creates risks of cancer and birth defects.
[with no mention that the biological half-life is significantly shorter -
New scientific evidence indicates that tritium's low decay energy does not
translate into low health risks. A British government commission recently
reviewed tritium's "rapid transport and uptake, and its propensities to
exchange, bind with organic molecules and concentrate in DNA's hydration
shell." It recommended that the radiation dose coefficient of HTO be
increased by a factor of 15 from current levels.
Canadians need to be better informed about tritium. The CNSC allows
Canadians to be exposed to tens of thousands of times more tritium than
other radioisotopes, based exclusively on its low decay energy. Health
Canada's drinking water guideline for tritium is nearly 10 times weaker than
the EPA standard in the U.S.
CANDU heavy-water reactors produce much larger quantities of tritium than
other reactor types. A study completed in 1985 found a correlation between
fatal birth defects and tritium water emissions from the Pickering nuclear
plant. Since then, use of the Darlington tritium removal facility has
significantly reduced tritium emissions.
Unfortunately, Darlington's tritium has been shipped to Pembroke for years
and released as a waste product from SRB Technologies. Residents concerned
about the health consequences of mounting radioactive contamination will
welcome the recent action by the CSNC.
Says CNSC sends 'mixed messages'
Pembroke Daily Observer (ON), Sat 19 Aug 2006
TOP: Pembroke city councillor Terry O'Neill (foreground) and members of the
staff of SRB Technologies listened grimly as Mayor Ed Jacyno attempted to
allay fears resulting from an order to shut down the industry which uses
tritium, a radioactive gas, in the manufacture of lighting products. The
firm has been given a year to address environmental issues.
RIGHT: Pembroke Mayor Ed Jacyno outlined his intention to get clarification
from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
on its decision to order SRB Technologies to close.
Pembroke's mayor believes the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)'s
order to shut down SRB Technologies (SRBT) sends the wrong message to the
Mayor Ed Jacyno called a press conference at city hall on Friday morning
with the stated aim of dispelling misinterpretations and fears that may have
been created by the recent issuing of an order by the CNSC to SRBT to cease
production. The commission has given the company a year to come up with a
plan to address concerns about the levels of tritium in
groundwater on the site and about the possibility of a contaminated
groundwater plume migrating off the site.
"I have the greatest respect for the CNSC, its staff, and its board
members," said Mayor Jacyno to the media, one other council member, and
about 25 members of the SRBT staff gathered there. "They have a tremendous
responsibility as they carry out
their mandate to regulate the nuclear industry across Canada. As an
autonomous body their first and primary concern is for public safety."
He added the municipality shares these concerns, but suggested that the way
the message of safety is being transmitted to residents needs to be
"On one hand assurances are being made that radiation doses of people living
or working in the vicinity of SRBT are below the regulatory limits and do
not pose an unreasonable risk to the health and safety of the people," he
"On the other hand, orders are issued, at times it seems arbitrarily, and at
the leisure of the commission."
He added that the commission, however, has an obligation to those it serves.
"That obligation should include a thoughtful, precise methodology when
issuing an order," he said. "The premise for this observation would be to
allay the fears and confusion an order that states 'cessation of work should
be immediate' carries with it. The implication is that this industry, this
community, and its residents are at risk. The commission should be sensitive
to the fact that its rulings have great impact on those that the order
affects. It must be cognizant of the fact that residents who are not in the
nuclear industry and listen as laymen to the information at the hearings are
subjected to terminology that at times
may be overwhelming, staggering, and frightening, when references are made
to bequerels, gigabequerels and parts per million, and millisieverts."
He said answers are needed to "remove this sword of Damocles that hangs over
the heads" of residents and staff of SRB Technologies.
Mayor Jacyno pointed out some apparent contradictions when he read from a
list of questions he had posed to the CNSC and the replies he received.
When asked why an 18-month licence renewal for SRBT had recently been
recommended, the commission responded that recent information indicated that
the continued operation of the facility poses an unreasonable risk to the
However, when asked if the CNSC disagreed with statements by SRBT at an
August 9 public meeting the health of the public and the environment were
not at risk, the CNSC replied that radiation doses to those living or
working in the vicinity of the facility do not pose an unreasonable risk.
The commission also conceded that SRBT has not exceeding the limits on
tritium emissions set in its December 2005 licence and has implemented
mitigation measures over the licence period that have resulted in lowering
"However, recent information received resulted in the conclusion that the
risk associated with continued operation of the facility posed an
unreasonable risk to the environment," stated the CNSC.
When asked point blank why SRBT was not allowed to work on a solution and
continue to address issues brought to its attention, the CNSC repeated that
statement and added that the measures taken were considered necessary to
protect the environment.
Mayor Jacyno had invited the CNSC to be represented at the press conference,
however no one from that body attended.
"My feeling is that what I say might skew the conclusions of hearings that
are coming up," he said.
"I'm saying that the issue of that order has already skewed them."
He noted that his information is that the emissions at SRBT are within safe
limits, and that he has every confidence that the community is safe.
"I live not far from the plant," he said. "I have an apple tree and a
garden, and I eat my vegetables and my apples. These concerns have to be put
He said that motorists on Highway 401 are probably in more danger from
carbon monoxide and sulfur dioxide, all of which affect the entire planet,
than the people of the community are from SRBT.
He said his hands are tied as far as providing any help to the employees.
"The CNSC should be sensitive to the fact that SRBT employees are working
people with families," he said. "Their lives have been hung on the line."
He urged the employees to be patient.
"Have faith in yourselves and your employer," he said.
From: radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl [mailto:radsafe-bounces at radlab.nl]On
Behalf Of StevenFrey at aol.com
Sent: April 7, 2006 1:42 PM
To: ncohen12 at comcast.net; Know_Nukes at yahoogroups.com; radsafe at radlab.nl
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] FW: spam: FW: 'Exit' signs boost landfill radiation
Doubtful on a number of fronts.
One: When tritium exit signs, which typically contain about 20 curies of
tritium gas, are ruptured, the tritium gas quickly dissipates in air.
gas has a profoundly low exchange rate with non-radioactive-hydrogen in
under ambient conditions, so profoundly little absorption of the tritium by
groundwater would occur. There is likely no more than a billionth or
of a fraction of exchange that would establish a significant pathway of
sanitary landfill exit sign tritium to groundwater. Also, landfills by
design are not built to have direct contact with groundwater for obvious
pollution-minimization reasons. Tritium gas is very challenging to keep
to the small size of the molecule and has a natural tendency to migrate
upward (all hydrogen gas, even tritium, is lighter than air). It is not
conceivable that tritium gas liberated from an exit sign could be trapped
inside a landfill. Moreover, there is no thermodynamic mechanism that would
persuade tritium gas to head downward to groundwater. There might be a
vehicle, but this mode producing substantial levels of tritium in
from landfill exit signs intuitively seems improbable, and this writer is
unaware of any objective proof of this mode.
Two: Tritium has never been shown to cause cancer. The claim to the
in the article below is without merit. The simplistic and sophistic claim
that ''Radioactivity causes cancer' does not constitute scientific proof.
inherent radiological weakness of tritium further undercuts the
Three: Tritium exit sign manufacturers have modeled extensively the
potential dose consequences of full release of the tritium content of signs
enclosed workspace. they have determined that the maximum dose that an
individual could ever receive from the tritium gas of a broken sign would
the annual dose limit for a member of the public. That is one of the
why the activity content of tritium in signs is limited to about 20 curies
Four: DEP's efforts to keep tritium out of landfills will be complicated by
the disposal of other tritium-containing manufactured products there, such
tritium wristwatches. There is no law that prohibits disposal of such items
in sanitary landfills.
Five: The context of the reference below to the EPA drinking water standard
of 20,000 pCi/l of tritium is misleading. The EPA drinking water standard
means this: an individual would have to drink two liters of 20,000 pCi/l
every day for a year before he or she would receive the maximum allowable
from drinking water set by the EPA, which is....4 mrem. That is
one-twenty-fifth of the total annual dose allowed to a member of the public
federal regulation. Moreover, the standard applies only to potable water.
Groundwater is not generally potable, so any tritium that it contains is
to find a pathway to human uptake. Non-potable groundwater makes the EPA
drinking water standard non-applicable to tritium in such groundwater. And
finally, the EPA standard is only that: a standard. It is not a rigid
Exceeding the standard at any instant does not automatically constitute a
violation or public health hazard. It is instead one factor to be used in
assessing the potential to the public over a period of time.
Six: So if the tritium in the groundwater is not likely coming from tritium
exit signs, what other explanations are there? Here are two possibilities:
- sample preparation and/or analytical error. Two - medical use or
biomedical research discharges to the environment. My guess would be the
possibility. It is easy to find 'tritium' in 'high' levels in water samples
is not exercised in collection, preparation, and analysis of the samples.
That is why it is vital to split such environmental samples and have them
prepared, counted, and their results interpreted at separate labs before
Three other possibilities are much less likely: natural tritium production
in the environment, neutron interaction with the soil, and discharges from
nuclear power plants. Mother Nature produces 4 MILLION curies of tritium
year, but spreads it out over the Earth. The resulting concentrations in
and water are insignificant. Neutron interaction would have to present at
extremely high levels to produce measurable tritium production in
Such high levels typically are produced by subterranean high-energy
accelerator beamdumps, of which there are no more than a handful in the
country. And there are no nearby nuclear power plants that have been
the below article. In any event, nukes adhere to rigorous effluent
limits to the environment, and are both unlikely and not historically known
be sources of tritium in groundwater at such 'high' concentrations.
Seven: If there remains serious concern about tritium in landfills, then
antinuclear groups ought to champion the establishment of affordable
disposal options for such literally low-level radioactive wastes.
Steven R. Frey, MS, CHP
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