Posts Tagged ‘regulatory failure’

Gross incompetence on the part of CNSC staff describing groundwater contamination near SRB

May 14th, 2015 No comments

Here is what the CNSC staff say (source) about groundwater contamination near SRB Technologies:

“The monitoring data collected by SRBT since the last licence renewal continue to be within the range predicted from CNSC staff’s modeling assessment conducted in 2010, as shown in figures 4 and 5, using the two monitoring wells in close proximity to SRBT as an example. The relatively good match between the modeling results and measurements provides validation to CNSC staff’s 2010 prediction on the behaviors of tritium in the groundwater system. It also demonstrates that releases of tritium resulting from SRB’s operation are under control and the tritium movement in groundwater around the SRB facility is well understood”

Here is what independent scientist, Dr. Ole Hendrickson found when he looked at the same data:

“In fact, Figure 5 indicates a poor match between the modeling results and actual tritium measurements in monitoring MW07-13.  None of the results for the 15 most recent samples taken from this monitoring well are within the range predicted by CNSC staff’s modeling assessment.  All had consistently higher tritium contamination than predicted by CNSC staff.”

Dr. Hendrickson goes on to say:

“Even more troubling is that the Environmental Assessment Information Report omits data for the other two monitoring wells modeled in the Update on Tritium Contamination in Groundwater at SRBT:  MW07-18 and MW07-29.  In these two wells, the agreement between the CNSC staff model and actual measurements is very poor.  Table 1 shows that during 2014, MW07-18 and MW07-29 had average tritium contamination levels 3.3 and 10.9 times higher than CNSC staff predictions, respectively.

“One must conclude that the statement on page 11 of 18 of the Environmental Assessment Information Report that “SRB’s operation has not adversely affected the groundwater quality” is false.  The mismatch between predicted and measured groundwater tritium contamination indicates that releases of tritium resulting from SRBT’s operations are not under control and the tritium movement in groundwater around the SRBT facility is not well understood.”

You can read Dr. Hendrickson’s full report, prepared for The First Six Years, here on the TAP website:  Tritium Behaviour in the Vicinity of SRB Technologies


CNSC staff incompetence on display yet again

May 14th, 2015 No comments

Documents prepared for the CNSC’s public hearing on SRB Technologies reveal shocking levels of incompetence or corruption in CNSC staff.

Dr. Ole Hendrickson in his report prepared for The First Six Years, noted the following statement by CNSC staff:

“radioactivity measured in water, air, soil, vegetation, milk, wine, fruits and vegetables samples…are within natural background levels”

Background tritium levels are considered to be 2 Bq/l according to CNSC. Several vegetable samples from Bowdens Gardens in Pembroke measured in the hundreds of becquerels per litre of tritium. CNSC staff’s statement (in quotation marks above)  therefore reveals a shocking misunderstanding of what background tritium levels are, or a deliberate attempt to mislead readers.

Additional problems noted by Dr. Hendrickson  include: lack of information on methodology employed for sample analysis, use of non-standard units (Bq/kg fresh weight), lack of clarity as to whether tritium concentrations in vegetation include organically-bound tritium, and the failure to provide a source for “Guidance/Reference levels”

TAP suggests that staff responsible for stating that tritium levels in water, air, soil, vegetation, milk, wine, fruite and vegetables are within natural background levels, should be fired, or at the very least sent back to school to learn basic science.



CNSC’s absurd 10-minute rule

May 14th, 2015 No comments

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission allows members of the public to make oral presentations at licensing hearings, but only allows 10 minutes per person or group. There are no restrictions on the licensee or the CNSC staff who are permitted to drone on ad libitum.

It is patently ridiculous that intervenors who spend  hundreds of hours researching and preparing submissions, essentially doing the CNSC’s work for it, are restricted to a 10-minute oral presentation. Even those intervenors who receive funding from the CNSC to partially compensate them for time and expenses involved in presenting, are restricted to 10 minutes.

In today’s hearing, for example, the First Six Years received intervenor funding and hired Dr. Ian Fairlie and Dr. Ole Hendrickson to prepare reports on The Hazards of Tritium Releases and SRB Pembroke and Tritium Behaviour in the Environment near Pembroke. You can read these reports in full here on the TAP website (links below). The First Six Years will be restricted to a 10 minute time slot for the oral presentation, time to cover only a small fraction of the substantive new information from the two reports.

The Hazards of Tritium Releases at SRB Pembroke 

Tritium Behaviour in the Vicinity of SRB Technologies

CCNR opposes 10-year license for SRBT

May 14th, 2015 No comments

Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR) makes a strong case against a 10-year license for SRB Technologies in its recent  submission to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

CCNR points out that Pembroke has been subjected to widespread tritium contamination due to incompetence of the regulator, CNSC, formerly the Atomic Energy Control Board. AECB essentially granted SRBT a license to market nuclear waste (tritium) that had been carefully segregated from heavy water by Ontario Power Generation and stored in stainless steel containers in a concrete vault at the Darlington Tritium Removal Facility. AECB allowed SRB to set up in a populated area in Pembroke, close to residences and businesses, with no exclusion zone. AECB did not properly oversee SRBT’s activities or require environmental monitoring for the first decade of its operation.

The Coalition urges current commission members to not compound the mistakes of their predecessors by allowing tritium emissions to continue in Pembroke, given that even if emissions are better controlled than before, tritium levels will continue to increase in the environment, due to the long half-life of tritium. CCNR argues that the SRBT facility should be either shut down altogether unless they can reduce radioactive emissions to zero, or they should be forced to relocate to an industrial or research site with an enforced exclusion zone such as Chalk River Labs.

The Coalition also raises serious concerns about the potential for tritium in the tubes that are filled at SRBT in Pembroke to end up in nuclear weapons.

You can read the CCNR submission here.


CNSC is proposing to remove non-proliferation safeguards from SRB’s licence

April 13th, 2015 No comments

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) runs the Darlington Tritium Removal Facility to reduce the tritium content of heavy water used to moderate CANDU reactors, protecting workers and the environment. This facility produces and stores 1-2 kilograms of pure tritium gas each year. OPG ships around 100 grams of tritium annually to the Chalk River Tritium Laboratory (part of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, formerly AECL) whose primary function is to dispense tritium for OPG’s commercial tritium customers. SRB is the main customer, processing 85 grams of tritium in 2013. While 85 grams of tritium sounds like a tiny amount, David Albright and Theodore B. Taylor (“Making Warheads: A Little Tritium Goes a Long Way”, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jan. 1988) explain that only 2-3 grams of tritium are needed to boost the yield of a nuclear bomb several-fold. SRB processes enough tritium each year to supply 20-30 nuclear weapons.

CNSC is proposing to remove licence conditions for safeguards and non-proliferation from SRB’s licence. No reason is given for the proposal.

TAP finds this proposal bizarre and maintains that Canada must uphold its obligation under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons “to accept safeguards… with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”

CNSC finds high levels of organically-bound tritium near SRB and fails to mention these in documents for the May 13th hearning.

April 13th, 2015 No comments

A research study led by the CNSC’s own scientists, published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in 2015, found unexpectedly high levels of organically-bound tritium (OBT) in soils and vegetation near SRB. A cucumber sampled 4.8 km from SRB contained 117 Bq/L OBT, 15.4 times the tritium in the cucumber’s water. Soil sampled 400 meters from SRB contained 1010 Bq/L OBT, 9.9 times the tritium in soil water. OBT in soil or living organisms, including humans, can have very long residence times and is therefore even more hazardous than tritium in water. OBT is generally not included in routine vegetation sampling. CNSC documents for the May 13th hearing make no mention of these findings of high OBT near SRB, raising concerns about CNSC’s integrity and impartiality.

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.

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.

Read more…

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.

SSI announces possible error in tritium emission calculations

April 9th, 2012 No comments

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)


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.