[ RadSafe ] FW: spam: FW: 'Exit' signs boost landfill radiati on levels

StevenFrey at aol.com StevenFrey at aol.com
Mon Aug 28 13:07:05 CDT 2006

Thanks for this news tip, Jaro. Here we go about tritium in landfills  again. 
In a message dated 8/28/2006 1:52:44 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,  
frantaj at aecl.ca writes:

Steve  & Radsafers, you're going to "love" this  one.....


Canada needs much tougher  rules on tritium 
The Ottawa Citizen, 27 August 2006
Ole  Hendrickson 

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
to rest." 
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.

-----Original  Message-----
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
contained due 
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
for long 
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
in an  
enclosed workspace. they have determined that the maximum  dose that  an 
individual could ever receive from the tritium gas of a broken   sign would
not exceed 
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
set  by 
federal regulation. Moreover, the standard applies  only to potable water.  
Groundwater is not generally potable, so any  tritium that it contains is
less  likely 
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
if  care 
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
apocalyptic  pronouncements.

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
mentioned  in 
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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