Tritium dumped in Ottawa River
Plan to dump radioactive tritium into Ottawa River recommended by staff at Canada’s nuclear agency.
(Ottawa, Ontario) Ottawa’s tap water will soon get an extra hit of a radioactive waste material – tritium – from SRB Technologies in Pembroke, unless the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) rejects the recommendations of its staff.
On the weekend, CNSC staff released what nuclear watchdog groups are calling its “worst
recommendations ever” in preparation for the November 27th hearing on SRB’s application for a renewed licence.
Tritium is a hazardous waste byproduct from CANDU reactors. SRB uses it to manufacture
glow-in-the-dark exit signs. But the company has been unable to monitor and control its emissions.
Each year, it releases more tritium than any of Canada’s nuclear power stations. Indeed, in two years out of the past eight, according to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, SRB released more tritium than all of Canada’s nuclear power stations combined.
Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen which persists in the environment for decades. It is readily incorporated into biological tissues of all kinds. It can cause cancer, genetic
mutations, malformed fetuses and other health problems. SRB has severely contaminated the environment and groundwater in the City of Pembroke with tritium. The levels are thousands of times higher than background – far in excess of Canada’s drinking water guideline. Contamination levels in Pembroke are so high that it will take a century for them to return to background levels.
Despite this dismal record, and the legal obligation to limit risks “to the health and safety of persons and the environment”, CNSC staff are recommending that the licence for the
polluting SRB plant be renewed. Moreover, CNSC staff are endorsing an SRB proposal to collect radioactive stack drippings and contaminated groundwater and run them through the Pembroke sewer system directly into the Ottawa River — a source of drinking water for millions of Canadians in Quebec and Ontario.
Scientific bodies have shown that there is no safe level of exposure to radioactive materials
and urge that all unnecessary exposures be avoided.
According to Dr. Ole Hendrickson, Researcher for Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County, CNSC staff’s recommendations are irrational and clearly not based on science. “Despite SRB’s abysmal compliance history, CNSC staff are now recommending a new 18-month licence, lifting all restrictions under which the company has been operating for the past 11 months, and giving a green light to dump radioactive tritium into the Ottawa River.”
A brief for the upcoming licensing hearing prepared by Ottawa Riverkeeper, Meredith Brown, emphasizes the need to protect water resources.”It is simply unacceptable to use the Ottawa River as a sewer for disposal of nuclear waste” Brown stated. “This is a real blast from the past, when dilution was considered the solution to pollution.”
Dr. Gordon Edwards, President of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, said “The Commission is getting bad advice from its staff. The people responsible for these recommendations should be fired.” Edwards stated that granting SRB a new licence would be a betrayal of the public trust and a violation of the law that established the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in the first place.