Besides last week being a busy week on budget proposals, loan guarantees, etc., there was quite a bit of discussion on the Vermont Yankee tritium issue. And Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee has done an exquisite job of keeping up with all of the media reports and facts that are coming out.
As she has found, there are very few times when clear communication is essential and this was one of them.
As I look at the history here, I see many opportunities for miscommunication. Underground and buried...what did these terms mean to the various players? Was Entergy asked about underground pipes, but answered about buried pipes? Did the nuclear engineer use the words buried, underground as if they were synonyms? Is John Wheeler correct about the use of underground and buried? Or is Gundersen correct in his implication that this is semantic obfuscation of a clear situation?
Were there honest communication errors?
Maybe. We’ll eventually find out.
is a blatant effort to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the safety of the plant and its positive contributions to the New England environment and economy.
With a spreadsheet and knowing math, here’s what Rod calculated to put tritium quantities in perspective:
A "picocurie" is 1 x 10^-12 curies. Said another way, a picocurie is to a curie as a penny is to $10 BILLION. A curie is not a large unit; a curie of tritium has a mass of just 0.1 milligrams.
Putting all of those numbers in my spreadsheet tells me that 20,000 picocuries/liter is just 0.000000000002 grams of tritium in 1000 grams of water. You could drink that water for a year as your ONLY source of fluid and get a total dose of just 3-4 millirem which is 1/100th of the average annual dose from background radiation in the US.
Yes, there are people who claim that you can never get down to zero risk until you get to zero dose, but there is no such thing here on Earth; it is a naturally radioactive place. The radiation from such low levels of tritium is lost in the noise of natural variation.
Of course, putting risk in context is lost on some people. But as long as we continue to educate everyone on the tritium issue, the masses will eventually understand how to put this in perspective and ignore the doomsayers.
Looking forward to another week of debate, discussion and discovery!