During preparations for intervention in the upcoming licensing hearing for SSI, the Peterborough-based citizen’s group SAGE has learned that soil tritium concentrations at the base of SSI’s stack exceeded 1.5 million Bq/l . This is eerily similar to what happened at SRB Technologies in Pembroke several years ago where groundwater remains contaminated as a result and the stack area is surrounded by a fence.
In the case of SSI, there is no signage or any indication of the tritium hazard. Unbelievably there is a picnic table right beside the stack. Read more in the SAGE intervention for the upcoming hearing at the CNSC on May 2, 2012.
Peterborough citizen’s group, Safe and Green Energy (SAGE) recently submitted an excellent written intervention opposing re-licensing of the Shield Source Incorporated facility. A pdf version of the SAGE intervention is available here (SAGE intervention SSI).
SAGE is being represented by the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
This public notice, posted recently on the SSI website, is eerily reminiscent of a similar event several years ago in Pembroke when SRB Technologies Inc. discovered a 10-fold underestimation of its tritium emissions that had been ongoing for many years:
(From the Website of Shield Source Incorporated on April 8, 2012)
“PUBLIC NOTICE – APRIL 2012
On March 28, 2012, we suspended operations to investigate potential errors in calculated HT emission data. HT is tritium gas that is emitted in small quantities from our exhaust stack during our production process. The CNSC was notified of this decision on the same day.
After consultation with independent consultants and the CNSC, we have decided to hire a third party consultant to install a parallel monitoring system to verify emission data during a limited production three day test scheduled to commence on April 3rd. Based on the values under consideration, this is not considered a threat to the public. Verified independent environmental sampling of air, water, and vegetation remains at historically safe levels. Additional information will be posted on this website as soon as it’s available.”
Note that SSI refers to “small quantities of tritium gas” being emitted from its exhaust stack. In fact, the tritium light factories, SSI in Peterborough, Ontario and SRB Technologies in Pembroke, Ontario are the two largest point sources for tritium gas emissions in the world, as far as we are aware.
Shield Source Incorporated (SSI) will appear before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on May 2, 2012 seeking a 10-year license to manufacture glow-in-the-dark devices filled with tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. CNSC staff support ra 5-year renewal of SSI’s license, which expires July 31, 2012. SSI, located at the Peterborough, Ontario airport, routinely emits large quantities of radioactive tritium gas into the surrounding environment.
The CNSC has refused to release a full report on a February 1, 2010 accident when SSI released roughly 150 trillion Becquerels of radioactive gas in a period of only about five minutes, nearly ten times the company’s weekly release limit, and 30% of its yearly limit. Groundwater in the area is highly polluted with tritium oxide. Local vegetation has incorporated tritium into a broad range of organic compounds.
During the current licence period in late 2009, CNSC staff allowed SSI to increase the height of its stack without public notice or environmental review, so that the company could spread its radioactive pollution farther away from the factory. CNSC staff, commenting on their decision in this matter, claim that “improvements to the design of the stack positively impacted the dispersion of tritium in the environment, consistent with industry best practice.”
For those familiar with the history of serious contamination of Pembroke, Ontario by tritium light manufacturer SRB Technologies, this is an unpleasant case of deja vu.
Director General of the French nuclear regulator, Autorite de Surete Nucleaire, Jean-Christophe Niel, calls on nuclear operators to control their tritium emissions in this article from Le Monde dated July 8, 2010.
The risks of tritium on health could be underestimated
The risks of tritium – the radioactive form of hydrogen – could be undervalued because it could be bound into the DNA of cells, according to experts who participated in a White Paper published on Thursday July 8 by the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN). Read more…
The Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council has recommended that the Ontario drinking water standard for tritium be reduced from 7,000 Bq/l to 20 Bq/l.
The report and recommendations are available here.
TAP commends the ODWAC for its thorough review and sound recommendations which will help to reduce the tritium hazard to Ontario residents.
Tritium-laced plants found near town’s glow-in-the-dark sign factory
MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT Environment Reporter, The Globe and Mail
Tuesday, September 28, 1999
Radioactive rhubarb has been found growing in Pembroke, Ont., near a factory that makes glow-in-the-dark signs from nuclear waste.
The rhubarb, apparently thriving downwind of the sign factory owned by SRB Technologies (Canada) Inc., contained about 1,000 times the radioactive tritium found either in rain water in Ottawa or in a rhubarb sample taken from a garden about 45 kilometres away.
“It was unusually large rhubarb, but I don’t think it was mutant or anything like that,” said Ole Hendrickson, a resident of the Ottawa Valley community who helped collect the samples. Read more…
MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER, The Globe and Mail
November 12, 1999
Radioactive matter shows up in rink ice, cucumbers, and woman’s urine
High levels of radioactive tritium are being found throughout Pembroke, the site of a plant that recycles the waste material to make glow-in-the-dark signs. Tritium has been discovered in the ice of a local hockey rink, in cucumbers and in the urine of one of the residents of the Ottawa River Valley city.
Although the tritium levels that were found were up to 1,500 times higher than the concentrations in rainwater, the Atomic Energy Control Board says they pose negligible risk of causing cancer. Read more…
After discovering groundwater contaminated with radioactive tritium, regulatory agency recommends shutting company
MARTIN MITTELSTAEDT, ENVIRONMENT REPORTER, The Globe and Mail
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 Page A3
Alarmed about radioactivity levels around Pembroke, Ont., that are hundreds of times above normal, staff at Canada’s nuclear regulatory agency have taken the unprecedented step of recommending the closing of a manufacturer of glow-in-the-dark signs.
Staff at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission have found that emissions from the company, SRB Technologies (Canada) Inc., have created a trail of groundwater contaminated with radioactive tritium more than a kilometre long under the Ottawa River Valley community of 15,000. The most contaminated water had tritium levels 743 times normal. Read more…
Martin Mittelstaedt, Globe and Mail (Canada)
February 8, 2006
The federal government is licensing companies to handle dangerous nuclear materials that have both peaceful and military uses without knowing who ultimately owns the businesses.
Nuclear critics say the fact that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the federal watchdog agency, does not know the identity of owners of the companies it oversees is a major blunder, given the high-security risks presented by nuclear materials and the potential costs of any accident involving radioactive releases. Read more…