Date: Thu, 17 Aug 2006 10:01:54 -0700

From: "Russell 'Ace' Hoffman" <>
Subject: Re: Defunct reactor at San Onofre now found to have been
  leaking for duration unknown:  "La de da" says NRC

August 17th, 2006

Dear Readers,

All over America, dozens of tritium leaks are being discovered at our nuclear reactors.  Some of these leaks have been going on continuously for years and even DECADES.

NO quantity of tritium is safe.  When ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin, a portion of the tritium stays in the body for YEARS, despite the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's inaccurate and misleading assurances to the contrary (shown below, bottom).

The latest tritium leak report (also shown below, top) indicates, among other things, that reporters for the San Diego Union-Tribune either don't know the right questions to ask, or don't want to ask them.

Without presenting the actual AMOUNT of tritium in the tritiated water -- the total number of Curies of tritium leaked -- there is simply NO WAY for the public to know the true significance of this latest leak.  All the report shows is that the NRC and the nuclear industry still hold FIRMLY to the UTTERLY FALSE belief that dilution of radioactive substances below some legal limit somehow renders those radioactive substances "harmless" and "no threat to public safety."

In fact, dilution just makes it impossible to identify conclusively WHO the victims are.

Tritium is a very deadly carcinogen.  Tritium kills.  It causes cancer, leukemia, and deformed babies.

A recent review of the available scientific literature which this author released in January of this year (2006) suggests that the EPA limit of 20,000 picoCuries per liter is way too lax and should be tightened by at least a factor of 5, if not 300 or more.  Please review my essay on tritium:

Tritium Explained:


"Ace" Hoffman
Eating, drinking, and breathing tritium about 12 miles from San Onofre...
Carlsbad CA

Below is a local (San Diego Union-Tribune) article about San Onofre's tritium leak, followed by an article in "JS Online" which dutifully contains biased statements by the NRC and the NEI.

San Diego Union Tribune article about SONWGS' tritium leak (highlighting by Michel Lee):

At 11:36 AM 8/17/2006 -0400, Michel Lee <> wrote:
Defunct reactor at San Onofre now found to have been leaking for duration unknown: "La de da" says NRC

Nuclear Power Plant Leaks Known Carcinogen

Authorities Report No Threat To Public Safety

UPDATED: 2:24 pm PDT August 16, 2006
[~ Pollution – Leaks]
SAN ONOFRE, Calif. -- A retired reactor at the San Onofre nuclear power plant has leaked several thousand gallons of radioactive water over an unknown period of time, but there is no threat to public safety, it was reported Wednesday.
An operator at the plant confirmed Tuesday that the water containing tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear fission that produces electricity, has leaked from the reactor, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. High levels of tritium can cause cancer or birth defects.   The concentration of tritium found in groundwater beneath the retired reactor was higher than standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water.
But initial tests showed it was lower than the maximum annual leakage permitted for nuclear power plants by the the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the newspaper reported.   "There is no danger to public safety," Victor Dricks, the commission's spokesman, told the newspaper.
Crews demolishing the retired reactor discovered the leak last week, and the commission was notified Monday, according to the Union-Tribune.  The leak might have started decades ago, said Ray Golden, a spokesman for the nuclear facility. He emphasized, however, that the nearest well for drinking water is 2 miles uphill at Camp Pendleton, the newspaper reported.   Golden added that if the tritium washes into the ocean, it would be diluted to levels safe for surfers, swimmers and marine life. The power plant is 100 to 200 yards from San Onofre Beach.
If more tests confirm that the concentration of leaked tritium meets the commission's standards, San Onofre officials said, they will release the contaminated water 1 1/2 miles offshore, according to the newspaper.   San Onofre officials said they are investigating the origin of the tritium, according to the Union-Tribune.

08/16/06 **** RADIATION BULLETIN(RADBULL) **** VOL 14.194
Send News Stories to with title on subject
line and first line of body

26 JS Online: Tritium in water under nuclear plant

Kewaunee owner, regulators say radioactive isotope doesn't pose
health threat


Posted: Aug. 15, 2006

The release of tritium underneath the Kewaunee nuclear plant
doesn't pose a health risk because the radioactive substance
hasn't been found in drinking water, federal nuclear regulators

Photo/Gary Porter

Tritium, a radioactive isotope, was discovered in water beneath
the Kewaunee nuclear plant. The tritium is not thought to have
entered the drinking water supply, although the level discovered
in one test exceeds Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.

What is Tritium?

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of the element hydrogen. It has
a half-life of 12.3 years.

What are tritium's properties?

Tritium is a hydrogen atom that has two neutrons in the nucleus,
in addition to its single proton, giving it an atomic weight
near 3. Although tritium can be a gas, its most common form is
in water because tritium reacts with oxygen to form water.
Where does tritium come from?

Tritium is produced naturally in the upper atmosphere. It is
also produced as a byproduct in nuclear reactors.

What is tritium used for?

Tritium's most important use is in the triggering mechanism in
thermonuclear weapons. Tritium is also produced commercially. It
is used in luminescent devices, such as exit signs in buildings,
aircraft dials, gauges and wristwatches.

How does tritium get into the environment?

Tritium occurs naturally in the environment in low
concentrations. Other sources of tritium include commercial
nuclear reactors and research reactors, and government weapons
production plants. Tritium may be released as steam or may leak
into the soil and groundwater.

How do people come in contact with tritium?

People are exposed to small amounts of tritium every day, since
it is widely dispersed in the environment and in the food chain.

How does tritium affect your health?

Exposure to tritium can increase the risk of developing cancer.
However, tritium emits very weak radiation and leaves the body
relatively quickly.

Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
By the Numbers

"About a fourth"
of U.S. nuclear plants have tritium on site

Nuclear plants nationwide

If you were to drink a cup of water that contained the highest
level, that would be the same as the naturally occurring
radiation you would receive by eating one banana.
- Richard Zuercher,

spokesman for Dominion, on levels of tritium found in water
Tritium Leak

Graphic/Bob Veierstahler

The radioactive isotope of hydrogen was found in four
groundwater samples taken from narrow shafts underneath the
nuclear plant, located in the Kewaunee County Town of Carlton,
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in a report.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Dominion Resources Inc.,
which owns Kewaunee, stressed that no unsafe levels of tritium
have been detected at monitoring wells near the plant or outside
the plant's boundary.

Kewaunee is one of 10 plants around the country where tritium
leaks have been found. The nuclear industry is stepping up
testing for tritium after a series of leaks at several plants.
Testing at Exelon Corp.'s Braidwood plant in Illinois detected
tritium in a nearby homeowner's well.

State and local authorities in Kewaunee and Manitowoc counties
were informed last week of the discovery, which Dominion
revealed on Friday.

Tritium is released naturally in the Earth's upper atmosphere.
It is also released as a byproduct of power production by
nuclear reactors. While it's a low-level source of radiation,
people who drink water that contains high levels of tritium are
at higher risk of developing cancer, and pregnant women drinking
tritium-tainted water are at higher risk of their babies
developing abnormalities, according to the Environmental
Protection Agency.

The EPA allows up to 20,000 picocuries per liter of tritium in
drinking water. In one of the four shafts measured beneath the
Kewaunee reactor basement, tritium was measured at 103,000
picocuries per liter, the NRC said.

"They've found a small amount of groundwater seeped into these
shafts, and when they collected and measured these samples last
week, they found three of them with relatively low levels of
tritium and one case that was above the EPA drinking water
level," said NRC spokesman Jan Strasma.

Dominion detected the tritium while conducting tests as part of
a voluntary program launched by the Nuclear Energy Institute, an
industry trade group. The tests were conducted in shafts that
are generally used to measure whether the plant's buildings have

"This is not a threat to anyone's health," said Richard
Zuercher, a spokesman for Dominion, stressing that the water in
which tritium was found is not drinking water.

"This is directly under the station," he said. "Right now we
have a team of individuals up there who are evaluating this,
trying to determine where the possible source of this tritium
might be."

Strasma said possible sources of the leak include the reactor's
spent fuel pool, a leaking underground pipe, or a spill of water
that drained into an area where the shafts are located.

Zuercher said there wouldn't be any health risk posed by the
amount of tritium found at Kewaunee.

"If you were to drink a cup of water that contained the highest
level, that would be the same as the naturally occurring
radiation you would receive by eating one banana," he said.
Nuclear opponent concerned

Bonnie Urfer of Nukewatch, a Luck, Wis.-based group that is
critical of nuclear power, said she thinks the concerns are
being minimized by both the energy company and the NRC.

"Groundwater is not stationary, it doesn't stay in one place,
and they still don't know where this leak is coming from," she
said. "They can't know at this point how it's going to affect
the environment or drinking water in the area."

Tests are conducted weekly of wells near the plant, and "we have
seen no tritium in any of those tests," said Amy Wergin, public
health nurse manager at the Manitowoc County Health Department.

More and more nuclear plants across the country are disclosing
findings about tritium as a result of an industrywide response
to leaks at several nuclear plants.

On Tuesday, Edison International, owner of the shuttered San
Onofre nuclear plant north of San Diego, told the NRC it had
detected tritium beneath the reactor.

Including Kewaunee and San Onofre, 10 nuclear plants have
announced tritium findings, with four leaks disclosed in the
past week, David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of
Concerned Scientists, told Bloomberg News.

Southern Co. told regulators last week of tritium at its Hatch
site in Georgia, and Xcel Energy Inc. reported a low level of
the substance at the Prairie Island reactor in Minnesota on Aug.
8, said Lochbaum. Xcel, based in Minneapolis, serves western
Wisconsin through its Eau Claire utility.

Lochbaum said that, by some estimates, "about a fourth" of the
65 U.S. nuclear plant sites will find some level of tritium on

"The final total is not in," he said. The reason for the
increase in tritium-leak reports is because "people are now
looking, and the reporting threshold is lower."

Urfer said the leak is a cause for concern, given Kewaunee's
location on the shore of Lake Michigan.

"They don't know how many of these reactors are leaking," Urfer
said. "For a reactor that's sitting on Lake Michigan, one of the
best freshwater supplies in the entire world, it should be a
serious issue."

The Point Beach nuclear plant, a few miles south of Kewaunee, is
planning to participate in the "groundwater reassessments"
taking place, said plant spokeswoman Sara Cassidy.

Both Kewaunee and Point Beach do regular testing and have been
in compliance with federal standards that permit tritium to be
released at low levels, officials said.

In 1975, Point Beach, which is owned by Milwaukee-based
Wisconsin Energy Corp., experienced a low-level radioactive
release, which included tritium. The area was cleaned up to
levels significantly below the EPA's drinking water limit.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

 From the Aug. 16, 2006 editions of the Milwaukee Journal

, Journal Sentinel Inc. All rights reserved.