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How the U.S. quietly turned a civilian atomic power site into a so-called bomb facility — and what it means for the global arms race
The production of nuclear weapons hides in plain sight all around the US (and around the world). Here, in South Carolina, employees of WesDyne (a subsidiary of Westinghouse) make an essential part of the tritium triggers used in nuclear bombs and missiles. Locals are clueless to the war chest (and its dangers) in their midst. Production at the plant has gone unreported even, in at least one case, "omitted entirely from a key report on the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile sent annually to international observers."
From the article: "For years, locals believed employees here worked solely on uranium fuel used in civilian nuclear power generation. But somewhere inside the 2-million-square foot complex, a small team of specialists, working on a federal contract for more than a decade, have quietly been assembling special stainless steel rods that are essential in the production of tritium, a radioactive isotope used in the trigger mechanisms for nuclear bombs and missiles. It’s the amount of tritium that’s released in the explosion of a nuclear weapon that determines the intensity of its devastating blast."
H3 is tritium. These are the findings of a study on the release of tritum conducted around Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Reactor site after the accident.
- Scientific Reports
- Article number:
- 14 September 2012
- 26 November 2012
- 10 December 2012
A large amount of radionuclides was released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) following the damage caused by the tsunami due to the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011. Although many radionuclides in various environmental samples around the FDNPS have been measured, 3H in the terrestrial environment has not yet been reported. We present here the first survey results of 3H concentrations in plant samples collected around the FDNPS in 2011 from shortly after the accident. The free-water3H concentrations in herbaceous plant shoots and evergreen tree leaves were considerably higher than the previous background concentration, and diminished with distance from the FDNPS. Although reconstruction of atmospheric 3H concentrations after the accident is difficult, a rough estimate of the radiation dose due to 3H inhalation about 20 km from the FDNPS is on the order of a few microsieverts (μSv).
"You got pipes that have been buried underground for 30 or 40 years, and they've never been inspected,' whistleblower says"
The truth about tritium begins to leak out in a new chapter in this AP series on nuclear reactors. The industry has long claimed that tritium is not a problem. The Pickering reactor in Ontario recently dumped 75,000 litres of tritium into Lake Ontario, saying it was insignificant. But tritium can be absorbed through the skin, is most dangerous when ingested, all things that could quite likely happen in a heavily used lake. In addition, as the article states, tritium is leaking from a majority of U.S. reactors, creating a growing health hazard for reactor communities.
AP l Jeff Donn 21 June, 2011
The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.
Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants.
Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard — sometimes at hundreds of times the limit.
Environment News Service 24 September, 2010
TRENTON, New Jersey, September 23, 2010 - Radioactive tritium that leaked from the Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in 2009 into two aquifers below the facility is being removed after months of delay, says the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
The Exelon Corporation, which owns and operates the power plant, has agreed to start pumping efforts this week on two monitoring wells in the Cape May and upper Cohansey aquifers, and also has agreed to expand that effort to a third contaminated location by early October.
The goal is to remove the tritium-tainted water to avoid any potential contamination of drinking water supplies, said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin."We have asked Exelon to expedite this effort, to clean up this radioactive material as quickly and efficiently as possible to ensure public health and the safety of our drinking water supplies," said Martin.
In June, Exelon documented levels of tritium in the monitoring wells located in the Cohansey aquifer that exceeded one million picuries per liter (pCi/L), as compared with an EPA health-based standard of 20,000 pCi/L.