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Another Crumbling Reactor Springs a Tritium Leak

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the hey-the-half-life's-only-fifteen-years dept.

Earth 466

mdsolar writes "The decrepit nuclear reactor Vermont Yankee has sprung a radioactive leak similar to those at other poorly run reactors in Illinois (Braidwood, Byron and Dresden), Arizona (Palo Verde), and New York (Indian Point). Greenpeace noted 3 years ago that radioactive tritium leaks even threaten Champagne from France. Tritium and its decay product helium 3 are incredibly valuable and there is currently a shortage of helium 3. What, besides shutting down leaky old nuclear plants, could be done to better control release of tritium into the environment?"

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466 comments

A Sticky Situation (4, Funny)

HamSammy (1716116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731720)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duct_tape

No, that won't do (5, Funny)

Krishnoid (984597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732112)

Careful! You need to use the correct product [3m.com] for this problem.

Re:No, that won't do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732160)

And a qualified expert [joelonsoftware.com] to use it!

Homer Simpson Does it Again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30731724)

D' oh!

Superpowers (2, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731730)

Can someone please explain how I can leverage this situation to develop superpowers?

Re:Superpowers (5, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731820)

  1. Harvest the tritium
  2. Sell it to people who want to make fusion
  3. Become extremely wealthy
  4. Pay everyone to pretend you've got superpowers

Re:Superpowers (3, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731828)

I'm intrigued by your idea and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Superpowers (3, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731896)

I get that a lot.

Re:Superpowers (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732260)

I'm intrigued by your idea and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Heh, you should read "Dianetics"

Re:Superpowers (1)

blai (1380673) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731994)

3. ...

4. Pay everyone...

5. ???

6. PROFIT!

Re:Superpowers (3, Funny)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732296)

Where's the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an earth shattering kaboom!

WTF is up with the summary? (3, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731740)

Is this the fucking Greenpeace sight?

Can't we keep the Luddites from being /. editors?

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1, Offtopic)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731832)

Is this the fucking Greenpeace sight?

No, but it is the Greenpeace site

.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732360)

Is this the fucking Greenpeace sight?

No, but it is the Greenpeace site

No, it isn't that either. The GP's (grandparent, not Greenpeace) statement was more accurate though. The editor must have been reading this submission through Greenpeace Goggles(TM) if he let it pass the editorial review.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30731878)

Other than the fact that it passingly mentions Greenpeace at all, what do you find wrong with the summary?

I'm genuinely curious. I tried to find any anti-nuclear spin (no pun intended) there, but couldn't find any.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (3, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731964)

Well, it does make it sound like a "crumbling" old reactor is "springing" a terribly dangerous tritium "leak" when really it's hardly hazardous at all. I mean, just because everything you read about radiation has an extremely negative spin doesn't change the fact that it's all still spin.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732380)

How did you figure out it is not hazardous at all? Last time it was tested it was at less than threshold levels, but the concentration is increasing, nobody knows where the leak is and if radioactive materials are notoriously corrosive so a small leak that is not addressed can easily become a much bigger leak.

None of the articles linked used the word crumbling. They mentioned that the reactors were old (which they are) and leaking (which they also are).

And I do not know what is all that evil anti-radiation spin that you complain about. Is it that little fact that radiation causes cancer? Because that is true you know.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (5, Informative)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731988)

The words "crumbling," "decrepit" and "poorly run" are pretty loaded, especially referring to levels of tritium around half the limit found on site, and no detectable levels off site.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (2, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732142)

> Other than the fact that it passingly mentions Greenpeace at all,
> what do you find wrong with the summary?
>
> I'm genuinely curious. I tried to find any anti-nuclear spin (no
> pun intended) there, but couldn't find any.

Byron Station has consistently been one of the best-run and best-performing nuclear power plants in the world from the day it went into service (well before that, actually), so any article that starts out by claiming the opposite is a bit, um, suspect as to the rest.

sPh

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (5, Insightful)

ductonius (705942) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732326)

I tried to find any anti-nuclear spin (no pun intended) there, but couldn't find any.

The fact that your spin-detector can't sense anything from the summary is indicative of greater problems.

But I digress. Let's begin with the title.

Another Crumbling Reactor Springs a Tritium Leak

Of the seven words in that title, three are designed to create a perception of the situation that is far worse than reality.

"Another": indicating more than one, or the latest in a series, or a connection to a greater ongoing situation. This is a spin word because it gives the impression that tritium leaks are special events that deserve special attention. This is not true. Reactors have been known for a very long time to create tritium and leak it, sometimes deliberately. CANDU reactors release tritium into the surrounding environment as a consequence of their design. They are allowed to do this because such leaks are not dangerous.

"Crumbling": indicating an advanced state of disrepair and decrepitude, a state of 'going to pieces', extreme unsoundness in structure or the inability to support it's own weight. This is a spin word because only a technical, literal definition of "crumbling" can apply to the reactor in question, the same definition that can be applied to anything, because everything not being created is in a state of entropic decay.

"Springs": indicating a sudden or forceful event. This is a spin word because it gives a false picture of what is plausibly taking place. Many reactors leak tritium as it diffuses through concrete and steel or in their cooling water. Any sudden or forceful leak of tritium would most likely be accompanied by a sudden and forceful leak of super-heated steam, which obviously hasn't happened.

Onto the summary.

"The decrepit nuclear reactor Vermont Yankee has sprung a radioactive leak similar to those at other poorly run reactors in Illinois (Braidwood, Byron and Dresden), Arizona (Palo Verde), and New York (Indian Point).

"Decrepit", "sprung" and "poorly run" are all loaded words. They make unsupported judgments about the reactor in question. The supposed problem is then also attributed to a number of other reactors the reader may or may not know about. This sentence assumes a problem and is constructed to make it appear to be widespread.

The use of the words "radioactive leak" is also spin, since anything radioactive escaping from anywhere can be counted. Dropping an ionizing smoke detector on the ground could be described as a "radioactive leak".

Greenpeace noted 3 years ago that radioactive tritium leaks even threaten Champagne from France.

This is spin, but it relies on the reader taking Greenpeace to be in a position of authority to make such judgments.

Tritium and its decay product helium 3 are incredibly valuable and there is currently a shortage of helium 3.

This is the only non-spin sentence in the summary. It may or may not be factually correct, I don't know, but it's stated as a fact and does not contain any loaded language I can see.

What, besides shutting down leaky old nuclear plants, could be done to better control release of tritium into the environment?"

The spin here is the loaded question which implies that the current release of tritium into the environment is a problem worthy of attention and further control.

So, yeah, there's the anti-nuclear spin. Lots of loaded words, ill-defined terms, misleading wording and an appeal to authority thrown in to boot.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1)

norpy (1277318) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732406)

I would like to buy you a beer, but you are likely in another country so i'll do the next best thing and plead for the next person with mod points to mod you "+1 insightful"

also tritium is pretty harmless unless you eat a bunch of it at once

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1)

NReitzel (77941) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731974)

A nit - it's "site" instead of "sight"

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (4, Insightful)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732030)

I don't think Greenpeace supporters are luddites, their views are just lean a little too far over.

My problem with Greenpeace is in their ridiculous stunts that not only endanger themselves, but others around them. Oh, also that they blatantly misinform the public to push their agenda, but that's par for the course for many political groups.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732038)

Greenpeace has a sight? Can you cite it?

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732134)

No, no. He said that Greenpeace has a cyte, like lymph nodes have lymphocytes. (Okay, I have no idea what those things are, but it ends in cyte. Doctors, nurses or people who have a clue about biology feel free to correct me.)

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732182)

I needed only read all the pejoratives in the summary to realize no rational representation of the story would be found here.

Obviously the poster "mdsolar" is an unbiased source of info. Perhaps he has a plan to produce 1/100th as much power with solar as is produced by nukes.

More likely he would just shut them down and burn more coal.

Re:WTF is up with the summary? (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732306)

No it is not the greenpeace "sight" it is not even the greenpeace site. It is the website of a Vermont newspaper that is local to the situation. How does that sound? Can you use that information to hurl a random ill-informed insult?

Mike Holmes says: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30731748)

It's all coming down.

MikeHolmes [makeitright.ca]

Carbon taxes (-1, Offtopic)

Rix (54095) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731760)

Nuclear electricity is only more expensive than coal because coal burners are allowed to externalize a great deal of their costs. Bring the cost of coal power up above nuclear through taxation, and this will resolve itself.

Re:Carbon taxes (2)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731824)

Nuclear power has had lots of subsidies, such as heavy governmental involvement in research, that I think would go a ways to offset whatever costs fossil fuels can externalize.

Re:Carbon taxes (5, Insightful)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731874)

...or you could bring the cost of nuclear down through cutting red tape for building new ones and funding research into more efficient ones and not punish the consumers who will be stuck with coal in the meantime.
I guess that doesn't fatten the right purses though, does it?

Re:Carbon taxes (0, Flamebait)

Afforess (1310263) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731906)

Wait, What? Coal Power is too cheap, so we should tax it heavily? Says who? You? Who gives you that right to decide what power is more "pure" than another?

Re:Carbon taxes (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731968)

You aren't familiar with the concept of an "externality" are you?

Re:Carbon taxes (3, Funny)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731978)

The power.... of SCIENCE! *bum bum BUM*

Re:Carbon taxes (3, Informative)

lapsed (1610061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732010)

You can relax. Nothing gives him the right to decide anything that affects you -- I think it's just an opinion. It's probably based on the knowledge that burning coal leads to smog and greenhouse gas emissions. If the economic cost of these pollutants aren't reflected in the cost of their consumption, then we're using too much of them. It's an externality [wikipedia.org] . It's not based on the relative purity of one or another way of generating power. It's based on the absolute cost of an economic activity.
It's not immediately clear that nuclear power doesn't have its own externalities or that the externalities can be approximated for either alternative, but that doesn't really make what he's saying any more or less of an opinion.

VT Voters - Contact your Legislator! (0)

achbed (97139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731764)

The state legislature is currently debating the proposed extension of the operating license of this facility. Given the track record of shoddy inspection processes, cost-cutting measures at the expense of safety, and not properly contributing to the decommissioning funds needed to safely close the plant, Entergy should not be allowed to continue the farce of safety for another 20 years. The linked article shows not only a disregard for the safety and long-term survival of the facility by not exploring a possible leak for months, but it also shows how little regard safety warnings are. Ignoring a low oil warning in a car would make me cringe - but not fixing a warning system and "closely monitoring the pump" instead in an facility that can cause mass destruction and death if failure occurs smacks of disregard for safety and human life to get things back to making money again.

And having labor unions pushing to keep this facility open, and bending all their political influence on this? They should be ashamed of themselves. Who will be hired to clean up once the facility is being closed? Union labor. And all for a few bucks while Vermont burns in a nuclear fire due to neglect and mismanagement.

Please contact your legislator and tell them to vote NO to the operating license renewal.

Re:VT Voters - Contact your Legislator! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732328)

And all for a few bucks while Vermont burns in a nuclear fire due to neglect and mismanagement.

This sentence is why I don't take you seriously. Such hysteria has no place in rational decisions.

Re:VT Voters - Contact your Legislator! (2, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732388)

Would you stick to that position if you were burning in a cleansing nuclear fire?

Forget about champagne (4, Funny)

santax (1541065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731772)

is my beer in danger? That's what I would like to know!

Re:Forget about champagne (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732176)

Sounds like a job for Radioactive Man [youtube.com] !

Re:Forget about champagne (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732214)

is my beer in danger? That's what I would like to know!

*burps* Not any more, mate, no worries.

What could be done? (1)

pieisgood (841871) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731788)

Build new nuclear reactors, specifically of the design that, either, doesn't use tritium or is melt down proof. Why are the same people that bitch about the safety of nuclear reactors all at once the people whole also hold it back from being a, somewhat, excellent energy source? Uncool green peace, uncool.

Re:What could be done? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30731818)

While I appreciate your support of nuclear energy, I'm going to ask you to educate yourself a bit. There are ZERO reactors that use tritium. It is an unavoidable by-product of fission. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium

Re:What could be done? (2, Informative)

Twigmon (1095941) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731834)

Time to switch to thorium! *Seriously*, time to switch to thorium..

Re:What could be done? (4, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731840)

Build new nuclear reactors, specifically of the design that, either, doesn't use tritium or is melt down proof. Why are the same people that bitch about the safety of nuclear reactors all at once the people whole also hold it back from being a, somewhat, excellent energy source? Uncool green peace, uncool.

Exactly. We should be embracing the technology and improving it with newer installations and better designs. But instead, I'm sure we'll hear from every anti-group in the world about how this leak is the sign of the apocalypse or some nonsense.

We seem to have done a pretty damn good job with the automobile over the last 50 years of improvements. Why we can't seem to do the same thing with this energy source is beyond me.

Re:What could be done? (5, Insightful)

PsychoSlashDot (207849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731980)

Aside from cost, public opinion is the real factor holding back exactly what you describe. It's a total case of NIMBY. Not in my back yard. "Nobody" wants a nuclear anything anywhere near them. Nuclear bad. Radiation bad. Eeeeevil.

So. All you need to do is convince everyone you meet to stop being afraid of nuclear energy. While you're at it, please do the same for fears of the boogeyman, terrorists, cloning, cancer, and people with different coloured skin.

Re:What could be done? (3, Informative)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732050)

Well, apart from the already mentioned fact that tritium is a natural by-product of fission, most modern reactors (pressurized water reactors or boiling water reactors, yes, not even pebble bed) are "melt down proof." Chernobyl is a superb example of why even old American designs are very, very safe and the old Russian designs are very, very insane.

It is extremely disheartening to see someone so clearly misinformed about such a very easily researched topic.

Re:What could be done? (2, Insightful)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732266)

How are PWRs meltdown proof? Three Mile Island was a PWR.

Re:What could be done? (5, Insightful)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732324)

Any nuclear fission reactor generates neutrons. If water is used in the reactor (e.g. for cooling), some of the hydrogen in the water will absorb neutrons and become deuterium or tritium. If the reactor uses heavy water (e.g. CANDU reactor, which is not the case here) tritium production is maximized, since you need to absorb less neutrons to produce the same amount of tritium. Tritium [wikipedia.org] is a weak beta emitter, so it is only dangerous if you ingest it in sufficient amounts. It decays into stable Helium-3. Even natural water has some trace amounts of tritium in it. FWIW the maximum permissible level of Tritium in Canada is way, way larger than in the USA. Guess where the 'C' in CANDU comes from...

FWIW Tritium is not the thing I am most concerned about in terms of nuclear waste. Iodine-131 or Strontium-90, now those are nasty.

Re:What could be done? (1)

Edmund Blackadder (559735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732396)

There are no melt down proof reactors, although there are a lot of people that say certain designs they have are meltdown proof. That of course all depends on a bunch of convenient but untrue assumptions they make.

The only reactor concept that can be called melt down proof is fusion. Most environmentalists do not oppose fusion experiments, but we have not gotten fusion to work yet.

Big Deal...? (5, Interesting)

NalosLayor (958307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731792)

We're talking about *tritium* here, not plutonium. It's just not all that dangerous as far as radioactive materials go. You might well be *WEARING* some right now if you have a watch that glows in the dark. Unless they're releasing hundreds of pounds of it at a time here (they aren't, there's ~165lbs of the stuff in the US right now) , any farm even a kilometer away is not a real health hazard. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium [wikipedia.org]

I need to know how fast the sky is falling! (5, Insightful)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732282)

You've got to love the innumeracy of the reporter on this article:

by Wednesday, the contamination had jumped to 17,000 parts per liter.

Ah yes, parts per liter. One of those quaint old-fashioned units of concentration, I guess, like horsepower per cubit. I wish someone could remind me how we convert to a more familiar unit like grams per liter, moles per liter, parts per million.

Re:Big Deal...? (1)

jstults (1406161) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732300)

Plus even if you do get a sizeable exposure (it needs to be ingested to have any effect), you just need to drink a sixer of cheap watered down beer [radlab.nl] .

Re:Big Deal...? (5, Informative)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732334)

We're talking about *tritium* here, not plutonium. It's just not all that dangerous as far as radioactive materials go. You might well be *WEARING* some right now if you have a watch that glows in the dark. Unless they're releasing hundreds of pounds of it at a time here (they aren't, there's ~165lbs of the stuff in the US right now) , any farm even a kilometer away is not a real health hazard.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium [wikipedia.org]

Absolutely correct! I am in fact wearing some right now! I have a necklace that has a "beta light" or as it is called in the UK a "Tritium Kit Marker". I carry this as it is part of my survival kit (I spend a good deal of time out doors) and having it in a necklace as a pendant always keeps it with me for emergencies.

Why do I carry it? Because it will stay glowing for roughly 15 years. The half-life of this gas is 12.3 years, and that is round about enough to keep the pendant glowing for 15 years or so. I can read by it in complete darkness, and almost hike by it in total darkness (as in a cave).

Now, before people freak out - Tritium is a beta emitter. Barely any electrons make it through the boro-silicate glass or plastic secondary container. Those that do are unlikely to penetrate my first layer of skin.

In order to do myself some damage with it, I would have to remove it from the plastic casing, crush the glass vial in my teeth, while carefully keeping my mouth closed (as tritium gas is lighter than air) then swallow the lot with some water to make certain it all goes down. Even then, after I pee it out in about 1-2 weeks time, I will have received a dosage roughly equivalent to a chest X-Ray.

For those of you who are still skeptical, I had the vial tested by some Physicists from Alamogordo at the Trinity Test Site this year, and in Los Alamos with Geiger counters. It registers as radioactive... but then again, so does a banana. I forget how many rems it gives off, but it was not much higher than normal background radiation, and far lower than may other common things such as a smoke detector.

Three words: (1)

JoeLinux (20366) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731816)

Pebble Bed Reactor

Re:Three words: (2, Informative)

biryokumaru (822262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732150)

Three words:

Still produce tritium

Helium (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731842)

We may be a bit short of helium, but I don't think the bit that's produced from tritium decay is going to do much to fix anything.

Re:Helium (3, Informative)

rockNme2349 (1414329) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732168)

Helium-3 != Helium-4

Helium-3 is a rare isotope of Helium on the earth. It has promise for an alternative nuclear fusion fuel as well as whatever else scientists like to do with rare isotopes.

Perspective (5, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731856)

The linked article says that the tritium levels are only half what must be reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And let's think about what 17,000 parts per liter is. A liter of water contains 3.34192092 * 1025 molecules. So those 17,000 atoms mean that, assuming one tritum atom per molecule, 0.00000000000000000005% of the water is contaminated with tritium. At 3.3ppb the concentration of uranium in seawater is several orders of magnitude higher [wikipedia.org] . This is not to say that the leak shouldn't be found and fixed, but the notion that this demonstrates that our nuclear power plants are unsafe is absurd.

Re:Perspective (5, Funny)

schmidt349 (690948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731960)

IIf you're a homeopath that's worse, isn't it?

Re:Perspective (1)

Schlemphfer (556732) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732352)

That was the most awesome comment I've seen here in years.

Re:Perspective (1)

amirulbahr (1216502) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731976)

Did you mean 3.34192092 * 10^25?

Re:Perspective (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731996)

Did you mean 3.34192092 * 10^25?

Yes, Slashdot ate my <sup> tag.

Re:Perspective (5, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731992)

Unfortunately the author of the article fudged the units (presumably he couldn't spell the name of the actual unit). The level of contamination is 17,000 picocuries per liter, not parts per liter.

It is still a low level, and is less than the EPA standard for drinking water. But not as low as your calculation.

Re:Perspective (4, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732330)

1 Curie [fusrapmaywood.com] = 2*10^12 disintigrations/minute
17,000 picocuries = ~~625 disintigrations/second
This level of radiation would require .65 picograms of Tritium per liter of water. This water is just marginally more radioactive than brazil nuts [isu.edu] .

Re:Perspective (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732386)

The legislated limit varies widely according to the country you are at [wikipedia.org] .

Fuck you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732070)

My entire family died from tritium poisoning during the Australian-American war, you insensitive clod!

Re:Fuck you! (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732104)

Your are supposed to hide the heirloom watch up your butt, not eat it.

Re:Perspective (1)

sourICE (1480471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732122)

lol.. So it's okay for them to pollute all of civilization as long as it's to a small enough degree?

These small amounts of contaminants are still present and going somewhere which I would assume is into the population or anything using water.

Over time this could add up and I would suspect that even reaching 1% contamination on our water from years of pollution from these many sources would reduce public water to unusable.

However, this likely will never happen since in essence the contaminated water is being consumed and filtered by every(thing/one) on a daily basis.

I still can't help but wonder what affects these pollutants could ultimately have on all life.

Never vote again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732206)

You are too stupid.

Re:Perspective (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732218)

You are welcome to wonder all you want, the impact will still be negligible when you finish up.

Rose-colored perspective (-1, Flamebait)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732136)

This is not to say that the leak shouldn't be found and fixed, but the notion that this demonstrates that our nuclear power plants are unsafe is absurd.

If it's safe, why should the leak be found and fixed?

Let's be honest here. To the advocates of nuclear power, Chernobyl isn't a demonstration of the danger of nuclear power, so why should any lesser event be considered such?

In any case, the comparison you give is, at best, misleading, and at worst, deliberately so. For the comparison to be meaningful, we'd need to know the mix of uranium isotopes in order to compare their decay modes, energies, and products. Just waving your hands and disingenuously equating radioactive elements is bullshit. Either you haven't the foggiest notion what you're talking about, and therefore wouldn't be able to tell that it would be much better to have a kilogram of Uranium-238 sitting on your lap than a kilogram of Cobalt-60, or you're an energy industry shill who knows good and goddamn well what he's talking about and you're doing what energy industry shills do whenever they're conscious: spreading dangerous half-truths and hoping that the lamentable state of physics education in this country lets you get away with it.

Re:Rose-colored perspective (3, Interesting)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732256)

> To the advocates of nuclear power, Chernobyl isn't a demonstration of the danger of nuclear power...

I'm interested in hearing a contrary opinion, but really. It was a demonstration of something we all know, that if you try really hard to screw something up you usually succeed.

Chernobyl was a poorly designed Russian reactor that would have never been issued a permit anywhere in the Western world but that wasn't why it failed. We still don't know all of the details of what they were researching but the assholes had intentionally turned off what safety features it did have. It is really hard to design something so idiot proof that it can withstand a determined effort by trained engineers to subvert the safety cutoffs.

Re:Rose-colored perspective (2, Funny)

JDevers (83155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732336)

Question: What weighs more a kilogram of U-238 or a kilogram of Co-60?

Answer: Wait long enough and the correct answer is Co-60...

Sorry, couldn't resist. Just an alpha versus beta and gamma particle thing...

In reality though, the bio-half life of tritium of a week or two combined with it being a weak beta emitter means it really isn't all that dangerous in even close to the quantities discussed here... This is just a non-story.

Re:Rose-colored perspective (1)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732346)

If it's safe, why should the leak be found and fixed?

I didn't say it was safe, just that it did not demonstrate that the plants are unsafe. If one car randomly explodes, does that prove that all cars are inherently unsafe? Neither did I say the leak was safe forever: obviously if the plant is leaking then something is going wrong. It may be safe now but problems left unattended tend to get worse over time.

Let's be honest here. To the advocates of nuclear power, Chernobyl isn't a demonstration of the danger of nuclear power, so why should any lesser event be considered such?

Well, no Chernobyl-style plants are operated in the US, so why should it demonstrate anything about powerplants in the US?

In any case, the comparison you give is, at best, misleading, and at worst, deliberately so. For the comparison to be meaningful, we'd need to know the mix of uranium isotopes in order to compare their decay modes, energies, and products.

Well, the mix of uranium isotopes in sea water is known, so why don't you pull it up and prove that the comparison wasn't meaningful instead of just assuming that it isn't. I'd say it actually goes in my favor: uranium is toxic whereas tritium isn't, uranium decays into toxic lead (via various radioactive and toxic intermediaries), whereas tritium decays into helium, which isn't toxic or radioactive, and uranium has a decay energy orders of magnitude greater than tritium. Tritium also has a short biological half-life and is readily removed from the body. Uranium, on the other hand, though not readily absorbed by the body tends to bioaccumulate and can stay in the body for years.

Either you haven't the foggiest notion what you're talking about...or you're an energy industry shill

That's a false dichotomy. I both have some idea what I'm talking about and have no connection to the energy industry.

Re:Perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732238)

More Perspective - Leaks 101:

#1 - Leaks generally do not fix themselves.
#2 - Leaks (unfixed) do not usually get smaller.
#3 - Leaks (unfixed) have a tendency to get bigger.

- in other words, complaining about an unfixed (not to mention unfound) 25-fold increase in the level of leaked radiation over an 8-week period *is not fucking absurd*.

Trust Greenpeace? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30731886)

Those eco-terrorists?

http://www.highnorth.no/Library/Movements/Greenpeace/gr-ac-pr.htm

The same who are extorting companies like Apple for a "green" reading?

Posted via Tor and AC for obvious reasons.

Re:Trust Greenpeace? (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732022)

Yes, because Greenpeace is going to sniff your IP, cross check your user name, bribe your ISP to find where you live, then drive to your home and shoot you. All because you called them eco-terrorists.

Sometimes, you ARE just paranoid.

Self-inflicted (5, Insightful)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731924)

What, besides shutting down leaky old nuclear plants, could be done to better control release of tritium into the environment?"

Well maybe if somebody, HINT HINT, would let us build new, safer, and more efficient ones, instead of having to rely on the older ones.

Re:Self-inflicted (1)

gsoco (147427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732244)

What, besides shutting down leaky old nuclear plants, could be done to better control release of tritium into the environment?"

Well maybe if somebody, HINT HINT, would let us build new, safer, and more efficient ones, instead of having to rely on the older ones.

OverlordQ's post should be modded higher...
Closing older nuclear plants and building new safer (YES safer) nuclear plants IS the answer!

You think like a ReThuglican Jew (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732270)

You think like a ReThuglican Jew

Re:Self-inflicted (2, Insightful)

Renraku (518261) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732318)

An ounce of prevention could have saved them from having to shell out for a pound of cure.

Instead of using thinner pipes, they could have used what the original plans called for. Instead of using crappier seals, they could have used the ones the original plans called for. Instead of compacting everything into one area, they could have left it at two, like the original plans probably called for.

This is engineering, and it's the way it's been done on damn near everything for a long time. Engineers draw up plans, bean counters go back and make changes. Engineers make new plans to work around what the bean counters did, but it's too late, because the modified plans are by that time already in production. Of course, the original plans are the ones that are submitted to the safety agencies for verification...

Here's one solution... (2, Interesting)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30731948)

"What, besides shutting down leaky old nuclear plants, could be done to better control release of tritium into the environment?"

Maintain the plants and keep them in operation. Really, they won't hurt you; and the electricity they produce is cheap and clean.

Re:Here's one solution... (3, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732072)

Precisely, the only problems with American plants is that they could be more efficient and are a pain to service. There's very little risk of any sort of danger to the public. They'll shut down automatically if for any reason the core loses power and the navy has been operating small reactors for decades without any incidents.

Hey uh (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732012)

Why don't we try throwing toilet water on it?

Tritium is hydrogen (1)

jsimon12 (207119) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732016)

Tritium is just an isotope of Hydrogen. Being that it is too light the Earth to hold onto it gravitationally so doesn't it all just end up wisping away into space?

Re:Tritium is hydrogen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732372)

Tritium is just an isotope of Hydrogen. Being that it is too light the Earth to hold onto it gravitationally so doesn't it all just end up wisping away into space?

Good question. I'm pretty sure this tritium would hang out in the upper stratosphere as H2 molecules, or get co-opted into some kind of water or hydrocarbon molecules and disperse in the environment. It's likely that the extra neutrons would go flinging off to wherever fairly quickly, and harmlessly, creating deuterium and eventually just "hydrogen". But no, I don't think it would achieve escape velocity simply by being "light"

Lame (5, Interesting)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732080)

Good grief, could this /. article possibly be more biased? Who the hell does Slashdot think it is, the MSM? I thought the Internet was supposed to be an improvement.

Lets just agree with the idiots at Greenpeace.... on one condition, that if we agree the current plants are operating far beyond their original design life they agree with us that the solution is to replace them with modern safer reactors.

Re:Lame (5, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732258)

kdawson's the posting editor. 'Nuff said.

Re:Lame (1)

JD770 (1227350) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732298)

All the idiots at greenpeace and/or Algore wants is for everyone else (not themselves of course) to live like the Old-Order Amish, but without the horses, cows, sheep and chickens. Then they'll finally shut up... Maybe... (I doubt it.)

worse then stupid (1)

cinnamon colbert (732724) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732108)

as grond noted, the actual amount is trivial beyond belief.
However, there is another problem to this; the atual amount of radioactive material stored at plants, in total, is quite large; in the even of, say, a terrorist inspired meltdown, we would be looking at a lot of long lived alphas getting into the environment.
the other issue is the relation between civilian nukes an atomic weapons. To build an atomic bomb, one needs a fairly serious and complex industrial infrastructure; take, say just monitoring workers - you have to have a reason for buying test equipment and so forth. If you have civilian nukes, you have a justification for building up tht infrastructure, eg, the specilized skills and equipment needed to transport highly radioactive material (fuel or weapons grade U)
Thus this article is bad for two reasons, (a) hysteria about a trivial leak, and (b) it defocuses us from the real problems

Simple. (1)

GWRedDragon (1340961) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732124)

Allow the construction of new plants. Newer designs are cheaper and safer. If new plants were allowed, they would gradually replace the aging designs.

who is closest? (1)

mikerubin (449692) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732152)

I have about 30 miles

Tritium is fairly common... (5, Informative)

SatireWolf (1050450) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732172)

Tritium is the common name for hydrogen-3 (3H), which is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Like ordinary hydrogen (1H or hydrogen-1, called protium) and deuterium (2H or hydrogen-2), tritium has a single proton in its nucleus. Unlike ordinary hydrogen, deuterium and tritium have neutrons in their nucleus. Deuterium has one neutron in its nucleus and is stable, while tritium's nucleus contains two neutrons and is unstable. Tritium decays spontaneously to helium-3 (3He) through ejection of a beta particle (essentially a high-energy electron). The half-life of tritium is about 12.32 years. Since the number of protons determines chemical bonding, tritium behaves like ordinary hydrogen and can replace ordinary hydrogen in water molecules. Thus, tritium readily cycles through the hydrologic and biologic components of the environment. Tritium has three times the mass of ordinary hydrogen due to the two extra neutrons. Because of this extra mass, water containing tritium evaporates at a slightly slower rate than water containing only hydrogen-1.

The unit of measure of tritium in water is the tritium unit (TU). One tritium unit equals 1 tritium atom in 1018 hydrogen atoms. In SI units, one tritium unit is about 0.118 bequerels per liter (Bq/L), where the bequerel is one decay per second. In picocuries per liter, 1 TU is approximately 3.19 pCi/L. Tritium occurs in very small quantities naturally, being produced in the upper atmosphere by cosmic rays. Natural (pre-nuclear age) levels of tritium in precipitation are on the order of 1 to 5 TU. Nuclear-weapons testing during the 1950s and 1960s created relatively large amounts of tritium in the atmosphere that can be detected in ground water that was recharged during this period. Greatly elevated levels of tritium can be present in ground water contaminated with radioactive wastes.

It hasn't been until recently that the detection of the very miniscule ammounts of Tritium leakage through several feet of rebar, concrete, steel, and lead have been detectible as the units of measure are so minute to be nearly indetectable. As such, they don't pose much of a threat to humans, or other creatures in general. The half-life of Tritium in the typicaly human is roughly ten days, and is of such a low yield of energy to be about as harmful as living in Colorado being bombarded with a multiple increase of Cosmic rays versus people who live closer to sea level. In fact, when measuring the radioactive levels of Tritium you will notice that the K+ ions in bananas are radioactive as well.

Basically, all of this overreacting to 'radioactive' stuff should result in EVERYTHING being banned that's radioactive. If they were so concerned with such low level contamination, they should do away with Limestone rock on the walls of schools (radioactive), granite countertops (radioactive), bananas (radioactive), and all manner of other things that emit EM and positron/neutron radiation on such low levels.

The irony of all the craziness over 'radioactivity' is that on average, people who work near nuclear reactors, or have 'any' exposure on an ongoing basis at a very low level are typically healthier than the crazy people scared of all this radiation floating around.

If you take all the TLD (thermo-luminescent devices) worn by all Department of Energy employees and Nuclear Sub/Carrier personnel to measure very accurately the radiation exposure over a year, and add up every TLD in the DOE and Navy, it is still less radiation than 1 person receives by living in Denver Colorado for a year.

Thus, by this non-sensical IT'S RADIOACTIVE IT MUST BE BAD FOR US logic, we should quarantine Colorado, because obviously it's going to end up becoming a mutated Zombieland where only those highly paranoid, and well adept at using all manner of sharp, blunt, and dangerous instruments for maiming Zombies will survive.

TV solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30732174)

Convince people it's a baldness cure, old Hogan's Heroes episode. Then just start lining coffins with lead. Problem solved and you get a fresh new cash flow for the nuclear industry selling a fake baldness cure.

Lies! Lies! All LIES! (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732226)

No! It's clean, I tell you! Clean! It's the cleanest one of all! Clean! Clean! Clean!
Aaaaaaaaargh.....
[fades out into oblivion]

Re:Lies! Lies! All LIES! (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732268)

They call it new clear power for a reason.

What's that? It's pronounced nucular now? I thought that was just for the weapons?

send in homer Simpson to fix it and also let him r (2, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732234)

send in homer Simpson to fix it and also let him run sector 7G

Pollution levels (3, Funny)

dg41 (743918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30732394)

He said the pollution could increase, decrease or even disappear.

Wow, awesome deduction there, Sherlock.

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