Tritium -- A response to Mr. Richard Warnock's published comments (shown below) in the North County Times
UNPUBLSHED (overtaken by the Tsunami coverage???):
Note: In the letter below, a "^" (caret) means "raised to the power of."
December 23rd, 2004
To The Editor:
Richard Warnock, an employee of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, said in your paper's Community Forum (December 20th, 2004, pg. A-8: "Nuclear reactor's radiation is trivial") that radiation is "a rather weak carcinogen when compared with smoking and many chemicals." However, mere milligrams of Plutonium 239, for example, will virtually guarantee lung cancer. Radiation also multiplies the hazardous effects of other chemicals.
Radiation causes cancer, neuromuscular disfunction, leukemia, cataracts, genomic instability, bystander effect (cell-to-cell damage), and scores of other health problems. Cardiovascular problems are another previously overlooked (by "mainstream scientists") health effect of radiation. A study of 53,698 employees at 52 US nuclear power facilities from 1979 to 1997 indicated an unexpectedly-high 248 deaths from heart disease (New Scientist, 18 December 2004, page 18: "Radiation is bad for your heart").
The main topic of Warnock's response to my original North County Times Op-Ed recommending the plant be shuttered (December 12th, 2004, page E-1) was tritium.
Discovered in the 1930s, tritium has an extremely low natural occurrence. It became widely available in the 1950s as a byproduct of nuclear reactors. Tritium use has been declining in biological and medical science because safer-to-use florescent molecules and antibodies are now available.
Even a few responsible members of the health physics community have questioned tritium's use in exit signs, and alternatives are being developed. On 9-11, hundreds of tritium exit signs were pulverized when the Twin Towers collapsed. The dust was also toxic with asbestos and other pollutants, as well as radioactive so-called "depleted" uranium (and more tritium) from the airplanes. Thousands of 9-11 emergency workers now suffer from lung problems. A 14-year-old boy had a temper tantrum and smashed ONE tritium-laced exit sign at a child care center. The hazardous waste cleanup cost taxpayers a quarter of a million dollars.
San Onofre has probably released 50,000 to 100,000 Curies of tritium into the surrounding environment. That would be like smashing tens of thousands of exit signs.
Warnock claims that San Onofre's radioactive releases quickly become "unmeasurable." What he means is they become indistinguishable because of the variations in levels of similar pollutants that are already out there.
There are about 1 * 10^4 Curies in a gram of tritium. 1 curie is 3.7 * 10^10 decays per second, so that's 3.7 * 10^14 dps per gram. There are about 3.7 * 10^11 stars in the Milky Way -- a thousand times LESS than the number of decays per second emanating from a single gram of San Onofre's so-called "safe" tritium.
And just how much damage can a single one of those 370 trillion (370,000,000,000,000) decays each second do if it occurs inside our bodies? Dr. Marion Fulk, a retired Manhattan Project scientist, refers to tritium as "wicked" because of its deceptive "low power" ionizing radiation. Usually the entire 6 kilovolts (average; maximum is about 18 kilovolts) of decay energy is dissipated within a single cell because the "mean free path" is only about 1 micrometer. A single tritium decay can damage thousands of ligand bonds. Normally, such bonds are made and broken in complex and highly controlled processes which make the body the marvel that it is. Such bond making-and-breaking makes it possible, for example, to transmit a pain signal from the toe to the brain. It is not random. Tritium causes (along with all the problems listed above) "cell suicide" (apoptosis). While you have about 5 * 10^13 cells in your body altogether, you don't have vast numbers of every type of cell. Your heart's electrical impulse transmission system, for instance, cannot afford a lot of cell suicides, because there just aren't that many of those cells to begin with.
Furthermore, there was a time when you were just one cell. A single tritium decay could have wiped you out! Fetuses are much more susceptible to radiation damage than adults -- probably at least 1 * 10^3 times more so.
Recent research suggests that the Biological Quality Factor for tritium should be more than doubled (a higher rating is considered more damaging). Instead, the nuclear industry keeps trying to get a relaxation of the drinking water standard, from 20,000 picoCuries (20 billionths of a Curie) per liter to 60,000 pCi/l.
When tritium is ingested, about 10% will stay in the body longer than 10 days, and some will stay for years. All 7 * 10^9 humans are exposed to galaxies of tritium atoms daily because of previous nuclear industry and weapons releases.
We CAN chose renewable power to solve our electrical energy needs. Offshore wind farms, for instance, do not use any land space, they do not kill birds, and they do not even need to be close enough to shore to be seen.
"Tritium: A naturally occurring, colorless, radioactive gaseous isotope of hydrogen used in thermonuclear weapons, and as a radioactive tracer in chemical, biochemical and biological research. Produced commercially from lithium-6 by slow neutron bombardment in nuclear reactors, tritium also poses a radiation hazard from inhalation as particles in the lungs may be a long-term carcinogenic hazard."
Letter from Tim Judson re San Onofre (2002):
From: CNY-CAN <firstname.lastname@example.org>
...I did some number-crunching based on the limited documentation I have (a
Brookhaven report for NRC on routine radioactive releases). What I have
only goes from 1974-1983, so I don't have anything on Diablo or San Onofre
3. But it's still a lot of waste they've dumped into Orange and North
Counties and along the beaches and fishing areas. It's not as bad as some
nukes (at least what they reported), but 20,000 curies of Tritium and 15,000
curies of radioactive gases is still a lot. Bet they don't tell the
lifeguards at San Onofre State Beach about it though ...
There's reason to believe the entire industry has basically stopped
monitoring radioactive gas effluents since about the early '80s. We're
working on finding someone who knows how the industry does whatever
"monitoring" they do to help us figure that out. We all have a lot of
sickness in our communities out here. But here's what I got ...
Gases (1974-83) -- 14,907 Ci
Unit 2 (1983) -- 7,430 Ci
Tritium (1974-83) -- 19,945 Ci
Gases (1974-76) -- 962,000 Ci
Just thought I'd shoot this stuff to you in case you didn't have it.
Central New York-CAN
Additional resources checked during the creation of this letter:
NEI is the Nuclear Energy Institute (propaganda arm of the nuclear industry):
The Nuclear Power Deception (IEER):
Chemical Fact Sheet:
Marin No Longer No. 1 For Breast Cancer
Responses to Questions Submitted to Berkeley Lab at the November 12, 1996 Berkeley City Council Meeting:
The Tri-Sorber Tritiation Manifold / Modern Tritium Handling in the Synthesis Laboratory:
Plan Outlines Closure of Tritium Facility
Physical properties of common radionuclides:
Physical properties of some radionuclides:
How do I calculate Curies (Ci) from disintegrations per minute(dpm)?
Ten golden rules for working safely with radioactivity:
Scoping Assessment on Medical Isotope Production at the Fast Flux Test Facility:
LLNL OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY:
BYU RADIATION SAFETY HANDBOOK:
Radioisotopes and Diagnostic Nuclear Medicine (NM):
OPERATION SWAB: MONITORING OF SHIPBOARD CONTAMINATION:
Does metabolic radiolabeling stimulate the stress response? Gene expression profiling reveals differential cellular responses to internal beta vs. external gamma radiation:
DB2 A Compact Tritium AMS Spectrometer:
International Isotope Society; Canadian Chapter Meeting, May 14-14, 1998, Ottawa:
ATOMS FOR PEACE + 50 / Nuclear Energy & Science for the 21st Century
October 22, 2003, The Watergate Hotel, Washington, DC:
Brief Chrono Artificial Radioactivty 1924-1936; Atomic Era 1936-1945:
A Brief Chronology of Radiation and Protection by J. Ellsworth Weaver III. *1994 - 1999:
SECTION FOUR: PRACTICAL RADIOCHEMISTRY
The Vermont Health Alert Network Definition of Terms:
Small amount of tritium released at Technical Area 16 (Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility (WETF))
U.S. resumes tritium production:
TRITIUM BREAKTHROUGH BRINGS INDIA CLOSER TO AN H-BOMB ARSENAL:
Tritium EXIT Signs: A Serious Hazard?
KILLING OUR OWN: The Disaster of America's Experience with Atomic Radiation by Harvey Wasserman & Norman Solomon with Robert Alvarez & Eleanor Walters:
PUBLIC HEALTH ASSESSMENT US DOE MOUND FACILITY MIAMISBURG, OHIO, APPENDIX D: TRITIUM IN DRINKING WATER:
Department of Environmental Health and Safety RADIATION SAFETY MANUAL APPENDIX G: BIOASSAY REQUIREMENTS:
THE CARCINOGENIC, MUTAGENIC, TERATOGENIC AND TRANSMUTATIONAL EFFECTS OF TRITIUM The Deerfield River Valley (DRV):
Radiation Information Network's Radioactivity in Nature:
Nuclear Contamination In Connecticut; Dangerous practices at the Millstone nuclear power plants:
ki4u: Secret Fallout: The Price of Secrecy:
Board of Radiation & Isotope Technology (BRIT):
Ionizing Radiation and its Biological and Human Health Effects (symposium notes):
You are a Health Physicist at a nuclear power plant. The Spent Fuel Pool (SFP) requires fuel consolidation to expand storage capacity and accommodate future spent fuel:
What's wrong with being cautious? By Dr. Theodore Rockwell:
NATURAL SOURCES OF RADIOACTIVITY
Radiation Dose Reconstruction for Epidemiologic Uses (1995) (chromosome transformations):
Radioactivity in Everyday Life:
Dirty Bomb Market; Wall Street Journal, August 1, 2003; Thai Principal Had Cesium For Sale; Police Were Buyers:
Radiological Quality of Drinking-Water:
Contamination Limits for Tritium:
Radiation all around us:
Low Dose Radiation, Hormesis and Adaptive Response Web Pages:
Executive Summary: Tritium Study:
Health Dangers of Tritium Emissions:
Directory of Soviet Industries Interesting for Investment:
Tritium: The basics:
Radioactive Material Users Guide -- Appendix I: Bioassay Procedures:
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO; IONIZING RADIATION POLICIES AND PROCEDURES MANUAL:
12th Annual Report on the Safety of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant (DCPP) Operations; July 1, 2001 thru June 30, 2002:
RESPONSE TO TERROR: Rethinking Security at San Onofre:
Nuclear Security: Federal and State Action Needed to Improve Security of Sealed Radioactive Sources (July, 2003):
Some of the search strings used for most Tritium research 200412:
ionizing radiation is a potent carcinogen site:.gov
medical uses of tritium dose
Additionally, several radiation experts (nuclear scientists) were consulted. Mistakes, however, are my own.
Contact information for the author of this letter:
[[[ see below ]]]
At 04:57 PM 12/25/2004 -0800, edward siegel wrote:
Subject: Re: YES, YOU DO RUN ON SO...!!!: "fanatical rant " STAND TALL AND TAKE YOUR (GOD[ &/VIA SCE]-GIVEN!!!)RADIATION LIKE A MAN!!!; Emailing: 12_19_0419_25_31
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San Onofre's radiation blends into background
By: Richard Warnock - Commentary
I hardly know where to start addressing Mr. Russell Hoffman's fanatical rant about San Onofre (Nuclear Generating Station) and radiation ("Time to pull plug on risky reactors," Nov. 12). He uses some jargon and buzz-words to give the flavor of knowledge, but he relies on innuendo, myths and half-truths for his conclusions rather than on facts, science and engineering.
It is surprising that you featured an article with so many foolish statements and technical blunders in your Sunday "Perspective" section. Did you check any of Mr. Hoffman's claims against facts before publishing the material?
Mr. Hoffman is correct that San Onofre makes and releases some tritium. The tritium is bound up as one of two hydrogen atoms on a water molecule. Water naturally contains a little tritium and San Onofre contributes a small amount to the local ecosystem. The amount of tritium released is too small to measure once it enters the local environment. The radiation dose to humans from these tritium releases is also too small to measure, but it can be calculated as less than 0.001 millirem per year. For perspective, each person living in the U.S. receives about 360 millirem of radiation every year. Most of this is from natural sources. For additional perspective, the regulatory limit for exposure to a member of the general public is 100 millirem per year.
These limits are safe and are in accord with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, and international guidance.
Tritium is commonly used in self-luminous watches, in self-luminous exit signs, and in self-luminous aircraft safety devices.
San Onofre releases an amount of tritium during a year that is equal to the amount of tritium contained in the number of self-luminous signs that you might find in one large building or shopping mall.
That's not very threatening!
Mr. Hoffman opined that "no energy source is as damaging to our biological structure as ionizing radiation."
This is patent nonsense. Radiation is a rather weak carcinogen when compared with smoking and many chemicals. Does Mr. Hoffman avoid dental and other medical x-rays and all nuclear medicine procedures? They produce ionizing radiation and they deposit some dose. All the energy we receive from the sun is radiant energy and that includes considerable ionizing radiation. As humans, we developed in a "sea" of radiation and we continue to live very successfully in that "sea."
Our bodies, our food, our water, our air, the earth, and the universe all contain naturally present radioactive materials.
These are the sources of the approximately one millirem per day radiation dose that nature delivers to each of us.
Possibly Mr. Hoffman can reconsider some of his nonsense. Then he can better enjoy the life he was given, and he can worry less about trivial radiation exposures.
---- Richard Warnock works at San Onofre as a project manager in the Health Physics/Radiation Protection department. His opinion is his own and does not necessarily represent the opinion of his employer.
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