Posts Tagged ‘glow-in-the-dark signs’

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 .

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.

Glow-in-the-dark light factory in Peterborough seeking a 10-year license

April 9th, 2012 No comments

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.


Canada loosens regulations for waste tritium lights

May 24th, 2010 Comments off

At a time when radioactive tritium from waste tritium lights is showing up in landfill leachate all over the world and regulators in other countries are grappling with how to keep waste tritium lights out of landfills, Canada’s regulators have loosened regulations for disposal of these toxic devices.

Recent amendments to the Nuclear Substances and Radiation Devices Regulations eliminated the requirement for a recall procedure for expired tritium lights that are, of course, still radioactive. There is now no requirement that tritium light manufacturers accept the return of discarded tritium lights of their own manufacture unless this requirement is now incorporated directly in a CNSC licence. In addition to relieving manufacturers of the financial burden of receiving waste lights as radioactive materials, this change to the Regulations increases the likelihood that purchasers of tritium lights will abandon these radioactive devices in ordinary landfills, even in jurisdictions such as the United States where this practice is not permitted.

For further details see letter to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission from the Canadian Environmental Law Association on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County.

TAP asks “How do these changes enhance the protection of the health and safety of the Canadian public? How do these changes enhance the protection of the environment? If they do not enhance either, then why were these changes made?”

Serious tritium pollution in Peterborough, Ontario

May 5th, 2009 Comments off

Serious tritium pollution has recently come to light in the vicinity of Shield Source Incorporated, a tritium sign factory near the Peterborough airport. The company has applied for a five year extension of its existing license. The application will be considered at a public hearing at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in Ottawa on June 10th. 

Documents filed for the hearing show tritium contamination at the base of SSI’s stacks has exceeded 1,000,000 Becquerels per litre. Local apples and groundwater wells are contaminated at many times higher than background levels. 

 SSI’s current license permits it to release 34,000 quadrillion becquerels of tritium. This is an unbelievably large quantity. So large it’s hard to put into words. But suffice it to say that SSI’s current license permits it to release more than the current total global inventory of tritium. Read more…

United States way ahead of Canada on safe disposal of tritium exit signs

May 4th, 2009 Comments off

As they age, tritium EXIT signs become less effective and more toxic, as the tritium gas inside them is converted to the more toxic oxide form. One sign, thrown into a landfill can create significant groundwater pollution.

Various American authorities have recently posted detailed information on the internet about responsible management of  tritium EXIT signs. Authorities in the United States appear to be way ahead of their Canadian counterparts in addressing the serious problems created by use and disposal of  these signs, many of which are manufactured in Canada.

In the U.S.,  the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health and Environmental Protection Agency all have prohibited use of tritium signs. Here are two informative web resources created recently by American authorities.

1) Responsible Management of tritium EXIT signs - excellent on-line training module from the Environmental Protection Agency that includes information on health risks, a key to identify tritium signs, recommended alternatives, and safe procedures for disposal.

2) Bureau of Radiation Protection, State of Pennsylvania - detailed webpage with much information about the problems with tritium exit signs.

TAP asks “Where is Canada’s information on responsibly dealing with tritium exit signs”?  

One tritium exit sign contains enough radiation for a lethal dose

April 7th, 2009 Comments off

Ontario Power Generation sells waste tritium from CANDU reactors to two Ontario companies that manufacture tritium lights,  SRB Technologies in Pembroke and Shield Source in Peterborough. These companies use the tritium to make self-luminous exit signs. TAP believes that the marketing of radioactive waste in these products should be prohibited. Safer, more effective and more energy efficient alternatives are available.

Besides being hazardous during manufacture and disposal, tritium lights and products containing them are hazardous during use. The tritium contained in a single exit sign, if fully oxidized and inhaled would constitute a lethal dose of radiation. Incidents have occurred in the United States where lights have been accidentally or intentionally broken, thus requiring expensive emergency measures including evacuations and decontamination operations.

This and other problems are described in the TAP fact sheet “Problems with tritium exit signs” available in PDF format for download in the documents section of this website.

Used tritium exit signs from Canada causing serious pollution problems around the world

April 7th, 2009 Comments off

There are many problems with tritium exit signs, as detailed in the TAP fact sheet on this topic.

Disposal of waste exit signs can seriously pollute groundwater. Tritium lights become much more hazardous to the environment as they age; the glass tubes act as sponges for tritium, converting it into its more hazardous and soluble oxidized form. Information linking high levels of tritium oxide in landfill leachate to discarded exit signs, has recently come to light in Scotland, South Africa, Italy and several states in the U.S. Regulators are grappling with the issue of how to ensure that used tritium exit signs go to monitored, radioactive waste storage facilities (1,2). Although no Canadian data are available, the situation may be worse here because regulations allow for disposal of used exit signs in ordinary landfills.


1) Study of tritium in leachate from Scottish landfill sites
2)  State of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

A series of stories about SRB Technologies from the archives

April 3rd, 2009 Comments off

We have just posted several archival news stories here on the TAP website,  dealing with tritium pollution from SRB Technologies Inc. in Pembroke, Ontario. This story is incredible but true. 

SRB  was licensed by the Atomic Energy Control Board (now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) in 1990  to market a radioactive waste byproduct of CANDU reactors called tritium — a radioactive form of hydrogen. SRB makes self-illuminating signs — they glow in the dark because they are filled with large quantities of radioactive tritium gas.  

Over the years. SRB has contaminated the environment in Pembroke with high levels of tritium. In some years, more tritium was given off into the environment by the SRB plant than by all of Canada’s nuclear power reactors combined.  Meanwhile, SRB is exporting tritium contamination problems around the world because there is no effective control over the ultimate disposal of these radioactive signs. 

This story is replete with patent examples of regulatory incompetence, murky questions about nuclear weapons and international security risks (because tritium is also used as a nuclear explosive material) and salt-of-the-earth folks being treated with disregard and exposed to high levels of radioactive tritium for  almost 20 years with no end in sight.  Please see also the “personal stories” category for more about this.

TAP feels that the marketing of radioactive wastes like tritium should be banned in Canada, and the SRB plant should be permanently shut down