Report: Nuclear Industry Flooding Canada With Radioactive Tritium

Nov. 23, 2009
Sierra Club of Canada says Canadians should be concerned about their drinking water

Canadians should be concerned about birth defects and cancers caused by radioactive tritium in their drinking water, according to “Tritium on Tap,” a report by Sierra Club Canada. The report also noted that routine and accidental releases of tritium are rising.

Canada’s nuclear industry releases massive quantities of tritium into waterways, sewers and the atmosphere, said the report. Levels in drinking water remain below present federal guidelines, but Canada allows 70 times more tritium than the European Union standard, and 473 times more tritium than California’s Public Health Goal.

“According to the U.K.’s Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters, current estimates of risk from tritium exposure do not take into account the properties of tritium, especially its ability to exchange with non-radioactive forms of hydrogen and combine with human DNA, leading to cancer and birth defects,” said Mike Buckthought of Sierra Club Canada.

The report documents a nuclear industry that it said relies on lax, out-of-date federal guidelines in order to ignore the problem of increasing releases of tritium from its aging reactors.

Following leaks at the NRU reactor in Chalk River, the report said Atomic Energy of Canada Limite (AECL) deliberately dumps radioactive water into the Ottawa River, resulting in spikes in tritium levels in Ottawa’s drinking water. During the summer, AECL collected an estimated 4.5 tons of radioactive water, leading to concerns that it may be about to dump the contaminated water into the river, according to the report.

“The problem is not just leaks and accidents. Every year 6.6 quadrillion becquerels of radioactive tritium is released into our rivers, lakes and the atmosphere--leading to widespread contamination,” Buckthought said. “Radioactive water gets into our food and drinking water, exposing millions of people to a known carcinogen.”

Source: Sierra Club of Canada