Monday, August 21, 2006

No Time To Ban Bananas

In yesterday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, an editorial cautioned readers not to overreact to news of a leak of tritiated water at the Kewaunee nuclear power plant:

But while concern may be warranted, overconcern - and overreaction - would be a mistake. Company officials assert that the amount of tritium found in the water "is not a threat to anyone's health." And while those officials may have a bias, their assertion is backed up by federal officials who say that no unsafe levels of tritium have been detected outside the plant's boundaries. And they are backed up by the Manitowoc County Health Department, which reports that "we have seen no tritium" in any of the weekly tests of wells near the plant.


The EPA allows up to 20,000 picocuries per liter of tritium in drinking water. In one of four shafts measured beneath the Kewaunee reactor basement, tritium was measured at 103,000 picocuries per liter, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A Dominion spokesman put the health risk posed by the tritium found under the plant this way: "If you were to drink a cup of water that contained the highest level, that would be the same as the naturally occurring radiation you would receive by eating one banana."

And no one, as far as we know, is calling for a ban on bananas.
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Anonymous said...

According to the Journal of Chemical Education, vol81, No10, October 2004 - a large banana has about 511 picocuries of radiation. Thus one cup of the water would seem to contain the equivalent of nearly 50 bananas - by my calculation.

Anonymous said...

Please repeat your calculations with Sievert (mS). It is not the raw activity that counts when you try to compare internal exposure to radioactive elements (hint: Alpha, Beta, Gamma)