Daily Archives: August 20, 2011

Press Spin Case Study: Tritium

Consider this headline:

“Radioactive tritium found near Vermont Yankee Plant” 

Disturbing? Perhaps to many people. The headline is in fact a true statement. Even true statements like this raise fear because it is about radiation. Click here for the article.

Tritium is a naturally occurring radioactive form of hydrogen produced in the atmosphere when cosmic rays collide with air molecules. Consequently, tritium is found in very small or trace amounts in groundwater throughout the world. It is also a byproduct of the production of electricity by nuclear power plants.

The article does not mention that humans receive approximately 50% of their annual radiation dose from natural background radiation, 48% from medical procedures (e.g., x-rays), and 2% from consumer products.

Also, radiation doses from tritium and nuclear power plant effluents contribute less than 0.1% of the total background radiation dose to which people are normally exposed. Perhaps this should have been mentioned in the article as well.

Click here for an NRC backgrounder on tritium.


Discharge violations destroy public credibility

It should be no surprise that discharge violations are viewed with alarm by the public. It always makes a nice press story line as well. Here is an example again from Stockton, NSW, Australia where Orica slightly exceeded their discharge limit for arsenic. Already under scrutiny for Cr-VI, this incident only draws more attention to this company (and their deep pockets). Click here.

It is not uncommon for the press to place a violator on trial in their own minds and bring conviction. Consider this very unfortunate situation in Kentucky. Click here.Without commenting on the merits of the well-owners case, the number of regulatory violations this company has received seriously undermines their credibility. Note also, bottled water (considered evil by some activists) is being donated to help the local residents.