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News Tritium leak at Oyster Creek nuclear plant

  1. May 7, 2010 #1

    Ivan Seeking

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    Not a good week for oil or nuclear power. This looks like it could be pretty serious.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 7, 2010 #2
    I don't think Tritium is particularly harmful is it? Only has a biological half-life of like 2 weeks or something along those lines. Maybe in large doses it could be harmful to a person but I don't think that's happening is it? hhmmmmmmm.......
  4. May 7, 2010 #3
    The half-life of tritium is about 12 years. I have a tritium loaded key chain that will glow for that long.
  5. May 7, 2010 #4


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    Biological life. Time the compound remains in a biological organism and allow radioisotopes to continue doing damage. Water turns over fairly quickly. Compounds that end up the bones for instance don't.
  6. May 7, 2010 #5
    Yes indeed, zomgwtf was referring to a biological half-life.
  7. May 7, 2010 #6
    Right out of the media playbook. Shameless, exploitative and contrived parallel of an actual news story. Fail.
  8. May 7, 2010 #7
    Yup. So I'm not sure if it would be particularly harmful to a person... Anyone have any articles referencing the effects of ingested Tritium on humans? I feel that when it comes to all things nuclear the media overplays everything by saying things such as 50 times more than the limit etc. It creates this impression that the limit is some sort of 'safe zone' and if it surpasses that safe zone that there are grave consequences.

    In fact in regard to nuclear emissions etc. the limits are set remarkably low. So 50x any sort of limit from a nuclear plant wouldn't cause me too much thought. I'm not sure about Tritium though :tongue: So again references would be nice.
  9. May 7, 2010 #8


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    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  10. May 7, 2010 #9


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    A short biological half life doesn't help you are continually replenishing the tritium with water from a supply that has been contaminated for the next 12 years. I do agree that the tritium (at this level) would not be enough to cause severe health effects but I don't think the people of New Jersey would like to be involuntarily enrolled in a study of the long-term effects of tritium exposure.

    Also, the http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jrD4xonSoPnaXaZTftwd4RXuoA2gD9FI7LJ80 [Broken] notes that the tritium leaks were found just days after the plant got a new 20-year license in 2009. Public support of the expansion of nuclear power will depend strongly on their trust in regulatory agencies. Unfortunately, like all government regulatory agencies, it seems the NRC was asleep on this as well.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  11. May 7, 2010 #10
    Ok. Well I've calculated it out quickly and found that if the concentration is exactly 5x the limit it would be exactly 1μCi.

    So I further calculated this to have a CEDE(based on an average person) of 0.666 μSv.

    Compare this to the natural background radiation of 2.4mSv or man-made background radiation of 5 μSv or to average exposure from medical testing being 0.4-1 mSv. All per year.

    So assuming my calculation before was correct the amount of radiation relative to the amount of background radiation can be measured by:
    BRET=Sv(dose)/Sv(background)*365... right?

    This gives a value of .10 so assuming I understand everything correctly the amount of radiation in the water if ingested is 10% or less than one day of the background radiation... I'm not 100% sure if I calculated the right thing here though sooo I would greatly appreciate someone more knowledgable in all things nuclear to help me out cause I'm finding it actually pretty interesting.

    If what I calculated was correct then I'd hardly consider it something to worry about :tongue:. If you worry about the tritium in your drinking water then don't go to the doctors office ever again.

    Editted my post to change from latex to μ because the font was veryyyy different :tongue:

    Also I'm not sure how to calculate in that the person would be drinking it continually. I assume it would be 10% all accross the board while the dose is being delivered steady.
    Last edited: May 7, 2010
  12. May 7, 2010 #11
    This is very true.
  13. May 7, 2010 #12


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    The actual effects of the tritium are extremely hard to predict. For a dose that low, some models (radiation hormesis) would actually predict an average increase in health. The linear no-threshold model would predict an increase in lifetime cancer deaths by about 0.0003%, assuming the exposure lasts for 1 effective year (net the decay and dilution). More realistic models would suggest no change whatever.

    I don't mean to downplay the seriousness of the incident: if regulators missed that, what else may they have missed? But unless the aquifer serves many millions, the effects will likely be small.
  14. May 7, 2010 #13
    This is not the first time contaminated water from a plant has made its way into people's cups. I don't believe it has ever been documented to increase cancer risk at these levels, but as you say CRGreathouse, low level radiation exposure is controversial. If it is a linear relationship with risk all the way through, this is poisoning that is hard to track. If low doses IMPROVE health, then this could be nothing at all. Under current models, this isn't much of a risk, but it looks bad, and it will scare many people.

    I note you already mentioned hormesis, sorry!
  15. May 7, 2010 #14
    I really hope people aren't getting hyped up about this. The NJ DEP allowable level of tritium in water is 1 million picuries per liter (pCi/L). Lets take an Olympic sized swimming pool (about 2.5 million liters) of pure water, to get the concretion allowed by the NJ DEP there would have to be 0.0003 grams of tritium (less than the mass of one drop of water). 50 times this situation would be 0.015 grams of tritium. Or enough tritium to make 6 commercial available tritium watches.

    This leak would need to be almost 14 times larger to equal the amount of water in an Olympic sized pool. In other words if this is a problem then some foods, your house, outside and people are a problem.

    Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/cfr/part030/part030-0015.html" for timepieces
    Natural occurring http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/natural.htm"
    NJ DEP http://www.state.nj.us/dep/newsrel/2010/10_0036.htm" [Broken] for tritium
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  16. May 7, 2010 #15
    I think this is an attempt by media and "green" idiots who don't understand what green really is, to take a swipe and nuclear energy along with oil. More hysteria from the media, and it distracts from CRGreathouse's point that regulators must get off the hashish and pay attention. This may not be an issue, and it will not accumulate in wildlife (I'll take tritium at this level over DDT), but we cannot play games with nuclear plants. Disaster may be unlikely, but it needs better publicity than this.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  17. May 7, 2010 #16
    My point was this was such a damm minor leak of radiation that is is ridiculous to get hysterical over it. Also the safety record of Oyster Creek is really good. There are only a hand-full of PN reports for the facility, and almost all of them had nothing to do with the reactor its self. Given that the safety culture or reactor operators and inspectors is almost a second religion it is insulting to say that people are sitting around with there thumbs up their bums.
  18. May 7, 2010 #17
    I had never heard of radiation hormesis thanks CRGreathouse. :tongue:

    @Argentum, I agree about the safety record of Oyster Creek but that doesn't excuse the fact that they missed this. It is pretty minor but it still should not have happened. I don't think they sit around with their thumbs up their butts but there certainly is someone at fault here.
    Last edited: May 8, 2010
  19. May 8, 2010 #18
    Their safety record makes it so much more silly that this is going to tarnish it, and be blown out of proportion by Greenpeace and others. Someone needs to hang (metaphorically) for this, for politics if nothing else.
  20. May 9, 2010 #19
    Could always send in SWAT teams, it worked for the oil rigs!
  21. May 10, 2010 #20
    SWOT teams, not SWAT.
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