1. These are the times I miss the late Commissioner McGaffigan. He would call the antis on their radiation panic-mongering.

  2. Wanna bet on the levels before the plant was in existance or even operating? Mayhaps greens stand to realize a greater profit on carbon qand acid rain offsets for coal fired plants. I’ll also posit that there is no intrest by the MSM in mentioning the frozen windmills in the midwest that aren’t feeding the grid.

  3. My feeble arithmetic makes it 0.000000000075 or 7.5 x 10 to the minus 12th rather than your 0.0000000000075 or 7.5 x 10 to the minus 13th grams of tritium per 1000 grams of water. But all these zeroes have my head spinning….

  4. A curie of tritium has to be a lot less mass than a curie of radium, which is 1 gram. First, multiply by the ratio of molar masses, 3/226. Then times the ratio of half-lives … and you end up with a number that is not relevant to anything, since both tritium detection and the harm it might conceivably do are in proportion to the rate of beta decays it does. If you could magically raise the half-life of the T in a given sample 100-fold, to 1230 years, but at the same time increase the number of atoms per litre of that sample 100-fold also, essentially nothing would have changed.
    Among those who have mentioned these test well results with malign intent, people who aren’t A-OK with natural gas are scarce. Therefore it is very relevant that 75,000 pCi/L of tritium is the same concentration of radioactivity as 80 pCi/L of radon in natural gas. They want to suck from the ground fluid that is as hot as the groundwater in those test wells, burn billions of litres per day of it — without altering its radioactivity, of course — and disperse the resulting gas into our breathing air.
    (How fire can be domesticated)

  5. @David Lewis – in scientific notation we both have the same answer – 7.5 x 10^-12.
    If you want to write it without scientific notation, that number needs 11 zeros to the right of the decimal place. (The way that I remember that is as follows: 0.1 = 1 x 10^-1 therefore 0.75 would be 7.5 x 10^-1 and 7.5 x 10^-12 would be 0.0000000000075. The number of zeros = exponent – 1)
    The number of zeros to the right of the decimal place in this case is SUPPOSED to make your head spin in confusion or anger – why in the world would people knowledgeable about radiation and radiation health effects get worked up about that amount of tritium?
    Just for a reminder of the math – A curie of tritium is 0.1 milligrams. That is 1 x 10^-4 grams.
    75,000 picocuries/liter is (7.5 x 10^4) x (1 x 10^-12)curies/liter or 7.5 x 10-8 curies/liter. Translating to grams/liter yields 7.5 x 10^-12 grams/liter.
    It is simpler to keep track when using scientific notation – all you have to do is add up the exponents.

    1. It can go the other way. That liter of water contains about one and a half trillion (1,500,000,000,000) radioactive tritium atoms! 😉
      Big numbers are scarier. That’s why the values are reported by the press in thousands of picocuries rather than a fraction of a millicurie.
      How about this?
      For each of those trillions of tritium atoms there are about 44 trillion protium atoms, a substance that is known to be dangerously explosive if mixed with air. A solution that contains too many of these free atoms becomes highly corrosive and can burn flesh or even dissolve metal.
      Anything can be made to sound scary to the scientifically ignorant.

      1. Brian – You are correct. However, let’s give the general public some respect and try to help them understand the relative risks they are accepting. I guarantee you that people opposed to nuclear energy will work in the other direction, but the basis of a free society with the freedom of speech is that both sides get to talk. It is not easy, it is not something that will sink in the first, second or perhaps even third time that the people hear it, but it will sink in if we keep at it.

      2. Brian – your comment reminds me of my favorite dangerous pollutant, dihydrogen MONOXIDE (a.k.a. “DHMO”). Our friends at the Dihydrogen MONOXIDE Research Division at http://www.DHMO.org (reminds me of another “Research Service” in terms of name as well as fairness and balance) – unmasks this dangerous pollutant for what it really is.
        Did you know that:
        DHMO can dissolve many substances simply by coming in contact with them.
        DHMO is known to spontaneously combust if exposed to certain metals.
        DHMO is a known greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming.
        The 9/11 terrorists as well as Saddam Hussein are infamous DHMO addicts.
        DHMO is a major component of acid rain. In fact, our rivers, lakes, oceans and streams are known to be contaminated with this dangerous chemical.
        DHMO is used in the manufacture of styrofoam cups and can leach out into the fluids – like coffee – held within.
        Nearly every water supply in the United States is contaminated with DHMO.
        DHMO gas can cause severe burns if DHMO gas is exposed to human flesh.
        Thousands of people die every year after inhaling DHMO.
        DHMO is found in nearly every cancer and tumor excised by a surgeon.
        People have been known to be poisoned by ingestion of sufficient quantities of DHMO.
        Plants and animals given DHMO can become severely addicted to it – this addiction can grow so serious that they can even die if they do not receive their regular dose of DHMO on time.
        Even worse – there is no substitute for DHMO once an addict has been created.
        Demand that your city or town become a DHMO Free Zone! JUST SAY NO TO DHMO!

        1. Dave – only one correction – you wrote “Nearly every water supply in the United States is contaminated with DHMO”
          The truth is that EVERY water supply on earth is contaminated with the deadly DHMO. (That is, of course, except for “water supplies” that are completely empty.)

    1. You’re right. I would fight back. Your response is exactly the kind I would expect from someone who cannot tell the difference between a leak that killed 5 people (so far), injured dozens and caused a major amount of property damage and a possible leak indicated by finding a miniscule fraction of a gram of a material that is not even particularly hazardous.
      Why in the world would anyone accept leadership from someone who rolls over and accepts stupid critics?

    2. Kit P,
      You’re partially right. Both trittium leaks and natural gas explosions both represnet deficiencies that can be corrected. The difference is that while one places no one at risk, the other kills five and injures dozens. All that’s being asked for is a little perspective.

      1. There comes a point of diminishing returns, Kit.
        Life is not put on a “bell curve”; beyond a certain point, the point of diminishing returns, improvement is not necessary. This is because improvement would not benefit anyone, it would not benefit the public health, it would not benefit the public safety, it would not benefit the environment.
        Vermont Yankee “releases tritium”, a microscopic quantity of it, 0 people are killed, 0 people are put at risk of getting cancer, and 0 harm is done. It doesn’t fail. It doesn’t marginally pass. It passes, as the amount of radiation released is less than that which could cause damage to any reasonable organism under any circumstances even if there was continuous exposure to it. Nothing is perfect, but nobody is harmed, or can be harmed by what was released, so it is acceptable; there is nothing to see here, move along.
        Your local natural gas plant kills 5 people, it doesn’t pass, it doesn’t marginally pass, it fails. When large numbers of people are killed, that is unacceptable.
        The lesson here is that nothing is perfect, but some things are far more perfect than others. There is a level of imperfection that we can tolerate, but there is also a level that we cannot. Vermont Yankee – and nuclear power – in general – are in the first category – the acceptable risks; when no one is harmed, and when even theoretical harms are negligible, and, in any event, the benefits outweigh the possible downsides, that is an acceptable risk. Natural gas explosions are in the second category – intolerable hazards.
        The middle is where most things in life are found, and it is up to us to help society gain the serenity to accept the risks that are acceptable, to avoid the risks that are unacceptable, and the wisdom – and the open-mindedness – to know the difference between the two.

    3. Kit P wrote:
      When performance is less than adequate, we do a root cause and find corrective actions.
      No, when performance is “less than adequate”, we analyze the magnitude of the risk, then the cost and effort needed to correct it. If we spend a lot of time and money to fix a minimal hazard, that is time and money not available to fix some other significant hazard. Society as a whole loses, because we are wasting resources fixing minimal hazards (or in this case, a non-hazard) while significant hazards elsewhere remain unsolved.

  6. I am correct donb. My full time job for a year was doing RCA. We did prioritize the order that we of RCA based on significance at that plant not on significance to society as a whole.
    Just because I was not investigating fatalities does not resources were being wasted. Some of the things that we investigated resulted in extending a refueling outage 30 days and were avoidable. So when you look at improved performance of the nuclear industry over the years considering such things as availability, it certainly is not a waste of resources.
    One of the events I investigated (because it was reportable to the NRC) was a worker who had a heart attack on the refueling floor on the weekend. The response of plant employees in getting the man to the hospital was amazing. Even though every thing went just as if it was a planned drill, the plant manager wanted to know what we could do better.
    If you are in the nuclear industry, you would rather be investigating events of insignificant risk than the loss of a coworker. You can learn as much form a near miss as a fatality.
    Furthermore, it is very easy to show the NRC that you have learned the lessons of getting tritium in the ground water with new plant designs. I can do it on one power point slide. The NRC answers to congress. When hearing occurs, the NRC has a picture that tells a thousand words. The NRC could try to say the risk was less that recent deaths at a construction site or they could hold a pretty picture.
    Most of the senators say

  7. I saw Rod’s comment on tritium on Romm’s blog. I think its worth putting your two bits worth in over there when he dumps on nuclear. If you upset Romm too much he filters you out using your name, then using your email address, then by your I.P. address. I stopped by a public library computer to slide a comment in.
    The analogy I used over there was to say one flight to Copenhagen would expose you to roughly the same extra dose of radiation that you would get if you drank the water from the most contaminated test well at Vermont Yankee as your only source of fluid for 23 days. I hope my calculation was roughly correct.
    The anti-nukes who want to make a big deal out of this tritium leak want to close down 70% of the US low carbon electricity supply, and the “progressives” like Romm who are piling on don’t see the contradiction inherent in calling for stopping cheap (already paid for nuclear) low carbon electricity generation while calling for building expensive (new solar and wind and a new grid) low carbon electricity generation. Romm has even posted looking for comment on how it was that “progressives” “botched” their “messaging” over the last year. They are wondering why they failed to accomplish their key goals such as getting a climate bill through the Senate. They are being told by their political opponents that maybe it would help if they got behind a solid baseload alternative like nuclear, but it doesn’t compute.
    They are saying they find it “baffling” that so many fiscally conservative people support new nuclear. “Progressives” tell each other new nuclear is so expensive so often they can’t understand why everyone doesn’t believe it. Actions tell the tale about what their agenda is. They are using the Vermont Yankee tritium issue to question extending the operating license of Vermont Yankee. The line of “progressives” is that their opponents are people who are “anti-science” and “pro-polluter”, but it is an anti-science line to trumpet the danger of this tritium leak and it is a pro polluter line to aim to shut down the US reactor fleet because of the inevitable expansion of coal that would entail.
    Just thinking out loud.

  8. Wasserman over on huffpo has posted an article demanding Yankee be shut down or this. Also Senator Bernie Sanders is dissing nukes over on Grist. Help.

  9. Unfortunately, in anything that involves rational thought, science or public welfare, the American public has long been trained to fail spectacularly. You can look at the history of the last 75 years or so, and see right up until the mid-1970s education was improving, science knowledge and interest among the average American (at least, the average American young enough to have attended secondary school after the Depression) was improving, and so on. Interestingly, virtually all “great” or “important” science fiction was written during the 50 years from 1925 to 1975; people who’d had enough of an education to be able to think critically and to understand scientific principles enjoyed that sort of thing more than people who’d been raised on fairy tales and puppy-dog tails. But, from about 1974 or ’75 on, American public education has been systematically devastated; people have been trained not to think, but to believe what they’re told to. As a result, the genuinely hard things

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