Exploring Tritium Dangers


Exploring Tritium Dangers: Health and Ecosystem Risks of Internally Incorporated Radionuclides, by Arjun Makhijani, Ph.D., uses the tritium pollutant, which forms radioactive water, to illustrate the risks of taking any radioisotope into the human body. Tritium easily crosses the placenta (the book makes clear it is not the only radioisotope that does so) and can have non-cancer and future generation impacts during pregnancy development.

Exploring Tritium Dangers relays how tritium (radioactive hydrogen) is the most commonly discharged radioisotope from nuclear power operations and is far more dangerous inside the body since animals and plants are made up mostly of water. Tritium is 150,000 times more radioactive than Pu-239 in terms of disintegration per unit time and with a half-life of 12.3 years is long enough to persist in the environment. A small amount of tritium easily contaminates very large amounts of drinking water.

In his book review in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Robert Alvarez briefly encapsulates the history of tritium contamination, even up to the most recent unplanned leak at the Monticello civilian nuclear site in Minnesota, of which the public was not informed until months after it happened. Keeping knowledge tritium releases from the public is a common practice.

Understanding the risks posed by tritium is essential and timely. Reactors that have been shut down are threatening to dump tritium into local environments. The contaminated tank waters from the ruined Fukushima Daichi nuclear reactors contain tritium; TEPCO, the owner of the ruined reactors is preparing to begin dumping this contamination into the Pacific in July. And Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is threatening to release tritium to the air in a community that has been exposed to decades of contamination from nuclear bomb production and testing.

Our regulatory regime is woefully inadequate and Makhijani recommends a tightening of drinking water standards for radioisotopes, especially tritium, since there are “research deficiencies and gaps” in our knowledge of tritium risks and its synergistic action with other damaging pollutants.

Exploring Tritium Dangers is available for non-commercial free download or hard copy purchase.


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