How do people and pets become exposed to tritium?
- Tritium is almost always found as tritiated water and primarily enters the body when people eat, or drink food or water containing tritium or absorb it through their skin. People can also inhale tritium as a gas in the air.
- Once tritium enters the body, it disperses quickly and is uniformly distributed throughout the soft tissues. Half of the tritium is excreted within approximately 10 days after exposure. About 10 percent of the dose from any tritium exposure comes from the small fraction of the exposure that the body retains as organically bound tritium (ICRP-30, 1979)
|· Picocurie (pCi) is a term that scientists use to describe how much radiation and, therefore, how much tritium, is in the water. A pCi is a unit that can be directly measured by laboratory tests.|
The EPA’s dose-based drinking water standard of 4 mrem per year is based on a maximum contaminant level of 20,000 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) for tritium. If other similar radioactive materials are also present in the drinking water, the annual dose from all the materials combined shall not exceed 4 mrem per year. This standard was expected to be exceeded only in extraordinary circumstances (EPA, 1975; EPA, 1976b)
WHY ISN’T THE EPA TESTING THE RADIATION IN NEVADA’S GROUNDWATER?
The EPA’s authority, under the Safe Drinking Water Act, sets Federal limits for drinking water contaminants. Water suppliers must provide water that meets these standards, called maximum contaminant levels. Some states have adopted the EPA’s drinking water standards as legally enforceable groundwater protection standards. These standards are often used in assessing laboratory test results of water from private wells. The EPA website has more information on drinking water and health.
Recent incidents at Oyster Creek and Vermont Yankee with tritium contamination of groundwater wells and soil have caused NRC licensees and the NRC to take actions to address the source of the tritium and to communicate the impact to the public and other external stakeholders. Each Regional Office has addressed the individual licensee actions; the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation has taken actions to address buried piping leaks; and the nuclear industry has undertaken additional initiatives to address buried piping leaks. While the actions in each individual case have been successful in identifying the source and seeing that the licensee corrects the problem, the incidents raise questions regarding the completeness of the NRC actions to date and whether those actions need to be augmented. Some actions are still being implemented as outlined in SECY-09-0174 on buried piping.
THE NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION AND EPA ARE NOT DOING THEIR JOB
Additionally, in conjunction with the NRC threshold, the EPA implemented a Groundwater Protection Initiative to address detection and remediation of inadvertent releases that may have resulted in radioactive materials in the soil and groundwater. The Groundwater Contamination Task Force should review the current practice and assess whether a different threshold should be used for groundwater contamination in Nevada and make the information publicly available.
Anyone exposed to large doses of radiation or to smaller doses over an extended period is at risk. Exposure to extremely large doses of external radiation may cause death within a few days or months. External exposure to lower doses of radiation and internal exposure from breathing or eating radioactive contaminated material may lead to an increased risk of developing cancer. Children are more susceptible to effects of radiation because they are growing and more of their cells are dividing. Thus, there is a greater opportunity for radiation to disrupt the process. Fetuses are also more sensitive to radiation.
FROM THE LA TIMES
This article is included in a prior blog, but it bears repeating:
“A sea of ancient water tainted by the Cold War is creeping deep under the volcanic peaks, dry lake beds and pinyon pine forests covering a vast tract of Nevada.
Over 41 years, the federal government detonated 921 nuclear warheads underground at the Nevada Test Site, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Each explosion deposited a toxic load of radioactivity into the ground and, in some cases, directly into aquifers.
When testing ended in 1992, the Energy Department estimated that more than 300 million curies of radiation had been left behind, making the site one of the most radioactively contaminated places in the nation.
During the era of weapons testing, Nevada embraced its role almost like a patriotic duty. There seemed to be no better use for an empty desert. But today, as Nevada faces a water crisis and a population boom, state officials are taking a new measure of the damage.
An article in Friday’s Section A about contaminated water at the Nevada Test Site said the federal drinking water standard for radiation is 20 picocuries per liter. There are three standards, depending on the type of radiation: For alpha particles, the standard is 15 picocuries per liter; for long-term radionuclides, it’s 50 picocuries per liter; and for short-lived tritium, it’s 20,000 picocuries per liter.”
WHY AREN’T NEVADANS BEING INFORMED ABOUT PICOCURIE LEVELS IN OUR GROUND WATER?
Available on Amazon.com, Representative Dina Titus even wrote a book about nuclear bomb testing in Nevada. Write to her office (address below) to ask for a current update on how nuclear radiation is impacting Nevada today. We need to demand answers from all our elected officials. Her website indicates s he does not respond to emails from anyone outside her district. I can’t help but wonder why radiation isn’t a problem for all Nevadans?
It is imperative all of us begin questioning our political representatives regardless of their party. Radiation poisoning transcends political, racial, religious, and age boundaries. Having experienced this recently, I personally believe pets in Nevada are dying of cancer in increasing numbers due to the irradiated soil at the Nevada Test Site which is picked up by the wind and spread throughout our state and the rest of the country.