Obituary for Sister Rosalie Bertell Ph.D.

June 24th, 2012 No comments

Sr. Rosalie Bertell, GNSH, Ph. D, an internationally recognized environmental epidemiologist, cancer researcher and public health advocate, died June 14, 2012, at age 83 in Saint Mary Medical Center, Langhorne, PA, in the 54th year of her religious life.

Dr. Bertell entered the field of cancer research at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, Buffalo in the 1970s. What started there grew into a lifetime devoted to research, writing, public speaking andadvocacy work on the effects of low-level radiation on human health.

Prior to founding the International Institute of Concern for Public Health in Toronto, Canada in 1984, she was an Energy/Public Health specialist at the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice in Toronto for four years. Sister traveled the globe, researching and advising ways of dealing with the chemical and nuclear hazards which endanger the environment and erode the health of people worldwide until shortly before her death.

Read more…

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Sister Rosalie Bertell Ph.D. A giant in the struggle to illuminate our hearts and minds

June 24th, 2012 No comments

We all know that we have lost a giant with the passing of Sister Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D.

I knew of Rosalie Bertell’s work at the Roswell Park Memorial Institute where she first gained invaluable insights into the manner in which ionizing radiation degrades the health of all and impairs the intelligence of very young children.

I was lucky enough to go with Rosalie on a trip to Korea to visit the communities where the CANDU nuclear reactors are located, seeing at first hand her compassionate heart and her scientific mind working in seamless harmony.

To me, she is a trailblazer in the practice of Science and Mathematics in the Public Interest — something the human community sorely needs if we are to survive our own technologies.

It is pitiful to see scientists and engineers allowing themselves to be shackled in jobs where their conscience is anaesthetized, their voices are stilled, and their actions are severely limited because they have sold their services to a corporation, a government agency, or military establishment.

Rosalie saw that science has to be put at the service of humanity and that scientific language has to be demystified so we can all understand the magnitude of the stakes and the enormity of what we are doing to earth’s living systems.

Scientific thought devoid of compassion, concern and action– for the good of humanity and all life on earth — is not only sterile, but rapidly becomes enormously destructive.

 May Rosalie rest in peace, but may her spirit remain very much alive and active in the world, because we need it — we need her– so much.

 Gordon Edwards

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Notice Re: the passing of Rosalie Bertell, Ph.D., GNSH

June 14th, 2012 No comments

Dear Friends and Colleagues of Rosalie Bertell,

It is with sadness that I’m writing to inform you that our dear Sister Rosalie died early this morning, June 14, 2012, after a week or so in the hospital with severe respiratory distress due to advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Despite her illness, she remained in good spirits and most interested in all of the works of justice she strove to support throughout her life right to the end. She died very peacefully.

Her funeral Mass will be here at our Motherhouse Chapel on Monday, June 17th at 10 a.m.

We will be remembering all of you as well as Sister Rosalie in our prayers that day, along with all the people who were victims of nuclear disasters and the many other societal ills that were the concerns of her heart and her life’s work at the International Institute of Concern for Public Health.


Sister Julia C. Lanigan, GNSH, President, Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart

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Tritium essential to construction of nuclear weapons

May 26th, 2012 No comments

From the Federation of American Scientists, Special Weapons Primer, Weapons of Mass Destruction (

“Tritium ( 3 H) is essential to the construction of boosted-fission nuclear weapons. A boosted weapon contains a mixture of deuterium and tritium, the gases being heated and compressed by the detonation of a plutonium or uranium device. The D-T mixture is heated to a temperature and pressure such that thermonuclear fusion occurs. This process releases a flood of 14 MeV neutrons which cause additional fissions in the device, greatly increasing its efficiency.

“Tritium is rare in nature because of its 12.4-year half-life. It is produced by cosmic radiation in the upper atmosphere where it combines with oxygen to form water. It then falls to earth as rain, but the concentration is too low to be useful in a nuclear weapons program. Most tritium is produced by bombarding 6Li [ 6 Li(n, a) 3 H] with neutrons in a reactor; it is also produced as a byproduct of the operation of a heavy-water-moderated reactor when neutrons are captured on the deuterons present.

“Tritium can be stored and shipped as a gas, a metal hydride (e.g., of titanium) or tritide, and trapped in zeolites (hydrated aluminum silicate compounds with uniform size pores in their crystalline structure). Stainless-steel cylinders with capacities up to 5.6 ‘ 10 7 GBq (1.5 MCi) of tritium gas are used for transportation and storage and must be constructed to withstand the additional pressure which will build up as tritium gradually decays to 3 He.

“All five declared nuclear weapon states must have the underlying capability to manufacture and handle tritium, although the United States has shut down its production reactors due to safety considerations. Canada manufactures tritium as a byproduct of the operation of CANDU reactors. (emphasis added) In principle, limited amounts of tritium could be made in any research reactor with the ability to accept a target to be irradiated.

          Sources and Methods

  • Adapted from - Nuclear Weapons Technology Militarily Critical Technologies List (MCTL) Part II: Weapons of Mass Destruction Technologies”

Radioactive apples and incompetence at CNSC

April 10th, 2012 No comments

The transcript of the January 2011 mid-term review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission of the operating license for Shield Source Incorporated (SSI) contains interesting verbal exchanges on the subject of tritium in apples from trees near SSI. According to the transcript, crabapples in a tree located 220 meters northeast from SSI question tested in 2010 contained over 2500 Becquerels per liter of tritium, compared to a normal background level of around 2 Becquerels per liter. Also of serious concern, apples 4.45 km north of SSI on Brealey Drive in Peterborough have consistently shown over 200 Becquerels per liter of tritium.

These findings are a warning sign that tritium contamination is widespread around SSI. However, CNSC staff do not see it that way. They state, for the record, that something unusual about apples causes them to concentrate tritium more than other types of vegetation. To quote from the transcript:

“We did observe as well that apples have this unique characteristic of having fairly high tritium concentrations even far away from some facilities and this is a subject of — will be the subject of some future research efforts to look at how apples are behaving this way. “

The CNSC is mandated to protect Canadians from radioactive pollution. Yet, CNSC staff repeatedly fall short in this regard. They seem unable to understand that tritium gas, which SSI releases from its stack, is readily oxidized to radioactive water, spreads throughout the environment and is incorporated into all organisms living nearby – including humans. Please see the tritium primer on this website for more on this.

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility opposes SSI license

April 10th, 2012 No comments

In a recent intervention filed with the CNSC, the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility presents a strong case against licensing of Peterborough-based tritium light factory, Shield Source Incorporated. CCNR points out that tritium is a radioactive waste byproduct of CANDU nuclear reactors which should be carefully isolated from the environment and living organisms. Instead,tritium extracted from Ontario reactors is being sold to SSI and incorporated into self-luminous devices, the manufacture of which results in chronic radioactive pollution of local air, water, soil and foodstuffs due to the inability of the SSI facility to handle this radio-toxic substance without spilling large quantities into the surrounding environment.

A PDF version of the three-page CCNR intervention is available here .

SSI’s absurd release limit for tritium enables CNSC to cover up serious accident

April 9th, 2012 No comments

When Shield Source Incorporated (SSI), a Peterborough, Ontario-based manufacturer of tritium lights, applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) in 2009 for a renewal of its operating license, Dr. Ole Hendrickson of Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County pointed out the absurdity of SSI’s “derived release limit” for tritium gas (HT) in the following statement:

“CNSC has currently set the derived release limit for HT from SSI at 3.40E+19 Bq/year (3.4 x 1010 GBq/a). This is over 200 times higher than the total global natural tritium production rate, and more than ten times the total world steady state natural inventory of tritium. (emphasis added)

Each year during the past five years, in theory, SSI could have emitted more than ten times the world’s current natural tritium inventory. Had they done so, tritium levels in rainfall, and in every water body in the world, would have risen several hundred-fold, reaching levels exceeding those measured at the peak of nuclear weapons testing in 1963.

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1.5 million Bq/l tritium at the base of SSI stack

April 9th, 2012 No comments

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.

International experts to speak on relicensing of tritium-based industry in Peterborough

April 9th, 2012 No comments

Dr. Gordon Edwards and Dr. Linda Harvey, international experts on the risks of nuclear energy and health effects of radiation, will be presenting their perspective on the hazards of radioactive tritium, specifically in regard to the current federal relicensing process for Shield Source Incorporated (SSI), located at the Peterborough airport.

This important public event organized by Safe And Green Energy (SAGE) Peterborough will be held Wednesday, April 11th, 7:00 pm at the George Street United Church located at the corner of George Street and McDonnel Street. The event titled “Tritium and the Quality of Life In Peterborough” is free and all are welcome.

Safe and Green Energy (SAGE) opposes new license for SSI

April 9th, 2012 No comments

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.