Officials announced this week that the Indian Point Energy Center nuclear power plant is leaking radioactive tritium into groundwater wells near the facility. Of course, authorities are telling the public there is nothing to worry about. However, be forewarned – there’s no such thing as a “harmless” radioactive material leak.
The Indian Point Energy Center is a three-unit reactor power plant located in Buchanan, New York, on the east bank of the Hudson River (twenty-five miles north of New York City). Officials detected the leaks in three different groundwater monitoring wells surrounding the nuclear plant. The owner of the plant, Entergy, says that the leaks are “not in accordance with our standards” but claims the leaks pose “no health or safety consequence to the public.” Dismissing a potential public health hazard with a “sniff sniff” and casual wave of the hand – is there really nothing to worry about?
Tritium – the radioactive material that bonds with water so tight, it becomes a part of it
According to Entergy and media taking heads, the radiation in question is Tritium – a form of radiation that does not travel very far through the air and cannot penetrate human skin. Entergy stresses these seemingly benign characteristics of tritium to hint that it is relatively harmless, and the public has nothing to worry about. What they are forgetting to mention however, is the danger presented when Tritium taints water – the very medium it was discovered leaking into this week. You see, Tritium does much more than mix with water – it becomes a part of it – a binding so tight that it can never be filtered from the water. And once the water becomes radioactive, it remains radioactive for several weeks giving it ample time to be introduced into any animal or person who consumes it.
Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen (the “H” in “H2O”) and as such, readily bonds to water forming a form of water called tritiated water. Although contact with skin presents no danger, it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food, or water. And once it bonds to water – it literally becomes a part of the water molecule and cannot be removed. The only way to dampen its harmful effects is to dilute the water.
Again though, authorities say there’s nothing to worry about – it’s only nuclear radiated water leaking into groundwater systems next to a major waterway near one of the largest cities on the planet.