Carbon-14: Another underestimated danger from nuclear power reactors


There are a number of radionuclides released from nuclear energy facilities. This paper highlights carbon-14 for a number of reasons:

  • Carbon-14 is radioactive and is released into air as methane and carbon dioxide.
  • Before 2010, carbon-14 releases from nuclear reactors were virtually ignored in the United States. Today only estimates are required and only under certain restrictive circumstances.
  • There is no good accounting of releases to date, so its impact on our health, our children’s health, and that of our environment remains unknown, yet environmental measurement is possible, but can be challenging under certain conditions.
  • Carbon-14 has a half-life of over 5700 years and the element carbon is a basic building block for life on earth. Therefore, “it constitutes a potential health hazard, whose additional production by anthropogenic sources of today will result in an increased radiation exposure to many future generations.”
  • Like tritium, it can collect in the tissues of the fetus at twice the concentration of the tissues in the mother, pointing to its disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable human lifecycle: the developing child.
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