Tritium is a mildly radioactive isotope of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe. While most elements consist of a combination of protons, neutrons, and electrons, normal hydrogen atoms lack neutrons. Tritium is unique in owning one proton and two neutrons. The half-life of tritium is over 12 years
Since tritium is radioactive, the atom is not stable — it decays into helium. There is a lot of Tritium at Fukushima. Tritium is nearly impossible to remove from the huge quantities of water used to cool melted-down reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. The water is still accumulating since 300 tons are needed every day to keep the reactors chilled. Huge tanks lined up around the plant, at last count 1,000 of them, each hold hundreds of tons of water that have been cleansed of radioactive cesium and strontium but not of tritium.
Tritium is one more radioactive particle (radioactive hydrogen) that is safe meaning scientists argue it is not worth worrying about it saying the risks of dumping the tritium-laced water into the sea are minimal. Their call is to simply release the water into the Pacific Ocean.
Rosa Yang, a nuclear expert at the Electric Power Research Institute, based in Palo Alto, California, who advises Japan on decommissioning reactors, believes the public angst is uncalled for. She says a Japanese government official should simply get up in public and drink water from one of the tanks to convince people it is safe. I wonder how many people would really be willing to do that.
The Chernobyl and Fukushima meltdowns let loose plenty of tritium, but so have a seemingly endless series of leaks at aging reactors in the U.S. and elsewhere. Such leaks have prompted the EPA to announce on February 4 plans to revisit standards for tritium that has found its way into water—so-called tritiated water, or HTO—along with risk limits for individual exposure to radiation and nuclear waste storage, among other issues surrounding nuclear power.
The agency’s recent announcement in the Federal Register notes that tritium levels as high as 3.2 million picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in ground water have been reported to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at some nuclear facilities.
The line between safe and unsafe radiation is murky, and children are more susceptible to radiation-linked illness. Tritium goes directly into soft tissues and organs of the human body, potentially increasing the risks of cancer and other sicknesses.
"Any exposure to tritium radiation could pose some health risk. This risk increases with prolonged exposure, and health risks include increased occurrence of cancer," said Robert Daguillard, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yet Yang suggests people just drink it up!
Scientific American writes, “Tritium is difficult to get a grip on from both a radiological and human health perspective. On the one hand, there is evidence that the risk from tritium is negligible and current standards are more than precautionary. On the other, there is also some evidence that tritium could be more harmful than originally thought. Cancer is the main risk from humans ingesting tritium. When tritium decays, it spits out a low-energy electron (roughly 18,000 electron volts) that escapes and slams into DNA, a ribosome or some other biologically important molecule. And, unlike other radionuclides, tritium is usually part of water, so it ends up in all parts of the body and therefore can, in theory, promote any kind of cancer.”
Molecular hydrogen is just the opposite (meaning its healthy) but in terms of smallness and ability to penetrate everywhere, even to the mitochondria and cell nucleus, all hydrogen acts alike. Its smallness is its ticket to easy penetration. Molecular hydrogen brings hydration and healing as well as anti-aging effects, but radioactive hydrogen will create problems including cancer. All forms of nuclear radiation are dangerous but hydrogen puts out the fires of oxidative stress; thus it is an excellent antidote for radioactive contamination.
The National Physicians for Social Responsibility and Citizen Awareness Network say that tritium, like other radionuclides, is a serious threat to the health of humans and the environment. Ira Helfand, a doctor at Cooley Dickinson in Northampton, Mass., and the co-founder and a former president of National Physicians for Social Responsibility biggest concern is that tritium can cross the placental barrier. It has been said that radioactive tritium concentrates in the fetus at 200 times the mother’s level of contamination. Tritium has been known to cause birth defects, cancers and mutations.
This was confirmed in animal studies, as documented by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. "Several statistically significant effects were found at various (tritium) levels, in no apparent relationship with dose," it stated. "These included microcephaly (shrunken heads, also observed at Hiroshima), sterility, stunting, reduction of the litter size.
"It absolutely can hurt you," Helfand said. "To say it can’t hurt you is irresponsible. It indicates the bias and the agenda of our current regulatory agencies — not to regulate but to promote." "As with all ionizing radiation, exposure to tritium increases the risk of developing cancer and genetic effects, including developmental abnormality and reproductive effects," stated the Citizen Awareness Network.
Of course tritium is hazardous, said John White, Region 1 Branch Chief of the NRC during a conference call with the media, as is any nuclear isotope. "In the case of cancer, leukemia, and genetic damage, the scientific consensus is that every additional exposure to radiation adds to the total risk and therefore to the incidence of these diseases in exposed populations," according to a document produced by the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility.
One nuclear expert put the danger of tritium into perspective. "I don’t think it poses a risk any greater than two or three packs of cigarettes a day," said Paul Blanch, who has worked in the nuclear industry for more than 40 years and opposes the relicensing of Vermont Yankee. Two or three packs of cigarettes is horrid to say the least so we should not look forward to Fukushima’s continued release of all the different radionuclides now and in the future, which will extend way past our and our children’s lives, all of which will be shortened by increasing cancer and other disease rates due to increasing nuclear contamination.
Recently I was on a bus where I met a nuclear engineer and of course, he was not concerned with nuclear plants nor Fukushima. To be honest it is not just nuclear plants we should be worried about. Tobacco smoke is radioactive so are all kinds of medical tests. A full torso CAT scan for medical diagnostic purposes might expose you to 2,400 millirems in a few minutes from that one procedure alone.
Coal fired plants emit more radioactive dust into the atmosphere than nuclear power plants, including trace amounts of uranium, thorium, potassium and radium, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Coal fire plants put out tons of mercury into the atmosphere yet the government gets hysterical about the healthy CO2 that they emit.
One of the worst dangers of tritium is that it cannot be measured with a normal Geiger counter, which makes it that much more hazardous. Lethal levels of tritium are totally invisible and undetectable. Of course, some people think there is no lethal level that anyone would encounter, even around leaking nuclear plants.
Tritium is a problem especially around nuclear reactors. Because every nuclear plant, reprocessing facility and special tritium manufacturing facility is ‘allowed’ to legally release a certain amount of tritium into the air and water, it is highly likely that if you are downwind or downstream of one of these facilities, that you have been exposed to higher than average amounts of tritium either in rain, breathing it in the air, drinking it in your drinking water, or via milk, etc.
Every nuclear facility releases radioactive tritium just as a normal every day sort of thing, both from the nuclear reactor, as well as from spent fuel pools. Tritium gas is released via the vent stack, and tritium water is released in many other ways, as proven by the many news links in this article. There are ways to remove radioactive Tritium from water, but the nuclear industry likes to save money and have people pay with their lives instead. Lives are cheaper than cleaning up the toxic and deadly poison mess that they make.