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Routine Radioactive Releases from US NPP Beyond Nuclear p. 1

Routine Radioactive Releases from US NPP Beyond Nuclear p. 2
Routine Radioactive Releases from US NPP Beyond Nuclear p. 3 Emphasis (red underline, yellow highlight) added. Original as pdf brochure is available here: http://www.beyondnuclear.org/storage/publications/Routine%20Releases%20from%20U.S.%20Nuclear%20Power%20Plants_November_2013.pdf

Internationally the radiation standard for emissions is now Bq for Becquerels and not Curies. One Curie is 37,000,000,000 Becquerels. A Becquerels is one radioactive emission per second. Hence, 16 billion curies is 590,000,000,000,000,000,000 becquerels or radioactive emissions per second!

US EPA Radioactive Emission Allowances for Nuclear Facilities

Current US EPA air allowances-legal radiation emission “standards”: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/laws/190/ http://www.epa.gov/radiation/docs/laws/40cfr190/190radionucldereleaselimitpublicpresentation-final.pdf The US EPA has no emissions water standards for nuclear facilities. Air standards are incomplete and insufficient. Contrary to what they say, tritium can be filtered. (See more on tritium at bottom)

US citizens need to demand serious public hearings. You may not have a dump or power facility near you today, though many people do, but you may tomorrow. Also, there is a move to dilute waste and call it low level and put it in public landfills. This is happening in Tennessee, the UK and perhaps elsewhere. The new emissions rulings may include waste. Plutonium and some other radionuclides accumulate in the body and any amount of radiation increases risk, so dilute is still dangerous. This is especially true of ingested or absorbed alpha emitters, such as plutonium. Check online and see how close you are to a nuclear power plant and the evacuation zones. Chances are you will be very surprised. Plus the emissions can travel far. Additionally, your food may be grown near one. These radiation emissions impact everyone. Through food, trade deals, and example it impacts non-US citizens too!

This is a serious matter of life, illness and death. Oh, one of their strange questions – should they speak of illness (Morbidity) or death (Mortality) rates? Both matter, but illness more than death, if one must pick and choose. Illness is a burden on self, family and society. Illness caused by radionuclides includes much more than “just” cancer, as well. The new ICRP rules are stronger on some things and weaker on others.

US FDA allows 15 times more radiation in food and water than Japan does. Stopping nuclear emissions is the real only way to protect local, non-imported, food now. The US EPA does still have drinking water standards regarding radiation, but how to really protect water from radiation with weak or no nuclear facility emission standards? After the FDA food regulations have weakened, you can expect the general EPA water quality to go next. Any cleanup of water unfairly falls on the local water company it appears, assuming they test, which is unlikely.

EPA comment for 3 August 2014: http://www.epa.gov/radiation/laws/190/ (“Environmental Standards for Uranium Fuel Cycle Facilities: Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) Comment period extended to August 3, 2014“)

Start educating yourselves before it’s too late! Not much time is left. It is a complex topic. One reason it’s important for public hearings to be held!

US EPA Explanation of Why Nuclear Power Plants Emit Radioactive Iodine and the Dangers Thereof

Iodine-129 and iodine-131 are gaseous fission products that form within fuel rods as they fission. Unless reactor chemistry is carefully controlled, they can build up too fast, increasing pressure and causing corrosion in the rods. As the rods age, cracks or wholes may breach the rods. Cracked rods can release radioactive iodine into the water that surrounds and cools the fuel rods. There, it circulates with the cooling water throughout the system, ending up in the airborne, liquid, and solid wastes from the reactor. From time to time, reactor gas capture systems release gases, including iodine, to the environment under applicable regulations.

Anywhere spent nuclear fuel is handled, there is a chance that iodine-129 and iodine-131 will escape into the environment. Nuclear fuel reprocessing plants dissolve the spent fuel rods in strong acids to recover plutonium and other valuable materials. In the process, they also release iodine-129 and -131 into the airborne, liquid, and solid waste processing systems. In the U.S., spent nuclear fuel is no longer reprocessed, because of concerns about nuclear weapons proliferation.

Currently, spent nuclear fuel remains in temporary storage at nuclear power plants around the country. If the nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain opens, it will provide permanent disposal for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive wastes. Wherever spent nuclear fuel is stored, the short-lived iodine-131 it contains will decay away quickly and completely. However, the long-lived iodine-129 will remain for millions of years. Keeping it from leaking into the environment, requires carefully designed, long-term safeguards.

The detonation of nuclear weapons also releases iodine-129 into the environment. Atmospheric testing in the 1950’s and 60’s released radioactive iodine to the atmosphere which has disseminated around the world, and is now found at very low levels in the environment. Most I-129 in the environment came from weapons testing.

How do iodine-129 and iodine-131 change in the environment?

Radioactive iodine can disperse rapidly in air and water, under the right conditions. However, it combines easily with organic materials in soil. This is known as ‘organic fixation’ and slows iodine’s movement in the environment. Some soil minerals also attach to, or adsorb, iodine, which also slows its movement.

The long half-life of iodine-129, 15.7 million years, means that it remains in the environment. However, iodine-131’s short half-life of 8 days means that it will decay away completely in the environment in a matter of months. Both decay with the emission of a beta particle, accompanied by weak gamma radiation.

How do people come in contact with iodine-129 and iodine-131?

Radioactive iodine can be inhaled as a gas or ingested in food or water. It dissolves in water so it moves easily from the atmosphere into humans and other living organisms. People are exposed to I-129 from the past testing of nuclear weapons, and I-131 from nuclear power plant emissions. Some industrial facilities also emit radioactive iodine to the environment, as well as medical institutions. Radioactive iodine is usually emitted as a gas, but may contaminate liquids or solid materials as well…

How do iodine-129 and iodine-131 get into the body?

Radioactive iodine can enter the body by ingestion or inhalation. It dissolves in water so it moves easily from the atmosphere into humans and other living organisms. For example, I-129 and -131 can settle on grass where cows can eat it and pass it to humans through their milk. It may settle on leafy vegetables and be ingested by humans. Iodine isotopes also concentrate in marine and freshwater fish, which people may then eat.

The tendency of iodine to collect in the thyroid….

What do iodine-129 and iodine-131 do once they get into the body?

When I-129 or I-131 is ingested, some of it concentrates in the thyroid gland. The rest passes from the body in urine.

Airborne I-129 and I-131 can be inhaled. In the lung, radioactive iodine is absorbed, passes into the blood stream, and collects in the thyroid. Any remaining iodine passes from the body with urine.

Health Effects of Iodine-129 and Iodine-131
How can iodine-129 and iodine-131 affect people’s health?

Radioactive iodine can cause thyroid problems, … Long-term (chronic) exposure to radioactive iodine can cause nodules, or cancer of the thyroid

Low doses can reduce activity of the thyroid gland, lowering hormone production in the gland….” (Emphasis added) http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/iodine.html

Special Dangers of Alpha Emitters Like Plutonium – Complex Chromosome Aberrations

Densely ionizing radiation, for example, alpha particle radiation (from radon or plutonium) and neutron radiation, preferentially induces complex chromosome aberrations“. See:
Complex chromosome aberrations persist in individuals many years after occupational exposure to densely ionizing radiation: an mFISH study.
Hande MP, Azizova TV, Burak LE, Khokhryakov VF, Geard CR, Brenner DJ.
Genes Chromosomes Cancer, 2005 Sept, 44(1):1-9.

On Tritium Filtration (Added 21 June 2014)

Tritium, which they claim they cannot filter, and they aren’t even trying at Fukushima or most nuclear power plants, even though the technology has long been there, has a half-life of 12.3 years. To reduce the amount of tritium to less than 1% will take 86 years and to get it to essentially zero will take 197 years. It is one of the shorter lived radionuclides. So, it should be clear that dilution is NOT the solution! (the number of years to reach 0.78% of the original quantity is Half Life x 7; half-life x 16 years brings it to 0.0015%).

Tritium has been associated with prostate cancer in UK nuclear workers (See “Radiation Workers Risk Prostate Cancer“, New Scientist, 22 Aug., 1985). It is bound with water as tritiated water. Some assure us that it’s ok because it disperses radiation evenly in the body! Do you feel better? Even wikipedia, which is increasingly contaminated by the pro-nuclear lobby noted that: “Tritium is potentially dangerous if inhaled or ingested. It can combine with oxygen to form tritiated water molecules, and those can be absorbed through pores in the skin.” (accessed 12 March 2014: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tritium )

In 1996, according to the US Los Alamos Lab:
The Tritium Systems Test Assembly group at Los Alamos has developed a Palladium Membrane Reactor/Isotope Separation System (PMR/ISS) to treat tritiated water. A waste-free effluent is produced composed of CO and CO2 which can be directly stacked to the environment. It is simple to operate and reliable using well-established technologies (palladium permeator and catalytic reactor, and cryogenic distillation). Tritium is recovered for storage and recycle with a recovery efficiency of 99.999999%.http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/lanl/lib-www/la-pubs/00326809.pdf

There are tritium processing plants, which allow the recovery of Helium 3, which is worth between $100 and $2,000 per liter. They can’t take care of it with that price?
Helium-3 Recovery – Tritium radioactively decays to helium-3, which has become a precious commodity. One reason for the tremendous growth in demand for helium-3 is its use in neutron detection equipment that is being installed all over the world to protect our nation and its allies from terrorism. SRTE recovers, purifies, and bottles this valuable byproduct of tritium, and is the sole source of helium-3 gas in the United States.http://www.srs.gov/general/news/factsheets/tritium_esrs.pdf
Current US industrial consumption of helium-3 is approximately 60,000 liters (approximately 8 kg) per year;[27] cost at auction has typically been approximately $100/liter although increasing demand has raised prices to as much as $2,000/liter in recent years.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium-3