Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Nuclear Answer?

There have been important developments in nuclear energy recently. President Bush touted nuclear energy as part of plan to reduce emissions in response to climate change. In Canada, the federal government recently agreed to support a plan to bury nuclear waste as nuclear energy is being proposed as a solution to meet electricity needs . A major criticism of nuclear energy has been the waste disposal issue and with a plan the nuclear industry hopes to provide a solution.

There will be lots of money to be made in constructing new plants and handling the waste. This will happen unless awareness is raised about the dangers of nuclear energy, no mater how much they are downplayed. Nobody wants to live near one, nuclear accidents are deadly, and the waste is deadly. I've written about nuclear issues before.

Also in the news, Greenpeace released a report (PDF) about tritium hazards associated with Canadian nuclear plant operations and recommended pregnant women and children to move at least 10 km (about 6 miles) away from any nuclear power facility. Most current information rates tritium as "mildly radioactive type of hydrogen that occurs both naturally and during the operation of nuclear power plants." According to the Greenpeace report this risk is underrated.

Page 8 of their report states the following:
"Like most radionuclides, tritium is a carcinogen, mutagen and teratogen. Many scientists have expressed concerns about tritium’s radiotoxicity. However, some radiation authorities continue to assert, rather misleadingly, that tritium is a “weak” radionuclide because the energy of its decay particle is very low. However, paradoxically, in radiation biology the weaker a particle the more effective it becomes. Unfortunately this remains unrecognised in official circles and tritium’s official dose factor (i.e., the dose given by the disintegration of one atom of tritium) is currently very small. Indeed, it is the lowest among common radionuclides by some margin."
Basically, regulators and nuclear plant operators deem the risk to be low while, scientifically, the risk may be much higher. Regardless, would you drink the tritiated water released from nuclear power plants? In Braidwood, Illinois the residents have been doing just that without knowing it. I'll have a story about that tomorrow.

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