There is an op-ed piece in the New Hampshire Sentinel-Source titled READER OPINION: Radiation must be taken seriously written by Kevin Kamps. The op-ed is focused on trying to elevate concerns about tritium found in the groundwater at Vermont Yankee. He is responding to an article that the paper had previously published titled Scientists: Tritium levels not concern, but source is. In other words, rather than trying to provide information, it is a blatant effort to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the safety of the plant and its positive contributions to the New England environment and economy.
Mr. Kamps’s op-ed included the following quote:
For example, Dr. Bertell, a Grey Nun of the Sacred Heart who holds a Ph.D. in biometrics and received the Right Livelihood Award (the alternative Nobel Peace Prize) for her lifelong work to protect human health against the hazards of radioactivity and toxic chemicals, has testified that “a zero Health Based Goal for tritium in water is the only acceptable goal for regulation from a public health standpoint.”
Update: (Posted February 8, 2009) A reader commented and provided a link to a Depleted Cranium post that includes a YouTube video with an interview of Dr. Rosalie Bertell opining on the hazards of what she calls “chemtrails” (aka contrails to those of us who have a stronger grasp on reality). I thought it was worth letting you see for yourself what kind of “authority” Mr. Kamps is quoting.
Here is my response to Mr. Kamps, just in case the site moderator does not get around to approving the comment. “
Though I do not hold a PhD in biometrics – or anything else – I have a spreadsheet and can set it up to do math. I also understand the definition of “picocurie” and recognize that life on Earth is full of “risks”. The only way to live without constant fear is to understand the magnitude of the risks, take action to avoid the important ones and stop worrying about the unimportant ones.
A “picocurie” is 1 x 10^-12 curies. Said another way, a picocurie is to a curie as a penny is to $10 BILLION. A curie is not a large unit; a curie of tritium has a mass of just 0.1 milligrams.
Putting all of those numbers in my spreadsheet tells me that 20,000 picocuries/liter is just 0.000000000002 grams of tritium in 1000 grams of water. You could drink that water for a year as your ONLY source of fluid and get a total dose of just 3-4 millirem which is 1/100th of the average annual dose from background radiation in the US.
Yes, there are people who claim that you can never get down to zero risk until you get to zero dose, but there is no such thing here on Earth; it is a naturally radioactive place. The radiation from such low levels of tritium is lost in the noise of natural variation.
I have far more important things to worry about – like those thousands of tons per day of potentially carcinogenic materials that each large coal plant dumps into the atmosphere through its smokestacks. I much prefer getting my electricity from zero emission nukes that occasionally find bit of tritium with a mass of 0.000000000002 grams/liter.
Publisher, Atomic Insights
Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast
According to the author “signature” at the bottom of the op-ed, Mr. Kamps is the “Radioactive Watchdog” at the Tacoma Park anti-nuclear organization called Beyond Nuclear, a Helen Caldicott founded organization now led by Paul Gunter. According to Mr. Kamps’s bio he has been employed as an anti-nuclear activist for his whole career. The bio does not mention his educational background.
The organization that he works for earns its living by fighting nuclear technology, though they couch their mission in educational terms. I assume that the chosen mission phrasing is designed to enable them to qualify for a tax exempt status. Here is a quote from the organization’s “About” page:
About Beyond Nuclear
Beyond Nuclear aims to educate and activate the public about the connections between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and the need to abandon both to safeguard our future. Beyond Nuclear advocates for an energy future that is sustainable, benign and democratic. The Beyond Nuclear team works with diverse partners and allies to provide the public, government officials, and the media with the critical information necessary to move humanity toward a world beyond nuclear.