A taste of honey? NO, a taste of tritium! Only tritium is odorless, colorless, and tasteless!

I haven’t seen Spidey 2 yet (we did waste our time a few days ago with Godzilla, though) but the NRC acts like tritium exit signs are useful, and claims that there are an estimated 2 million of them in use in the U.S.A. right now.  In fact, such signs are an absolutely absurd use of tritium, which is not nearly as safe as the NRC says.  They keep calling tritium “low energy” but that actually makes it worse when measured (as it usually is) as total energy dump into a body or organ.

The reason this is so is that beta particles do nearly all their damage at the end of their track.  Prior to that, they whiz by things too fast to seriously disrupt them (remember, for a charged particle (in this case, a beta particle with a single electron volt negative charge) to have an effect on another charged particle (for instance, a molecule it is flying past at nearly the speed of light) requires…. wait for it… time!  (get it? Time, wait, etc.?)

The net effect of this is that nearly all the damage is done when it’s going slow enough to be around something long enough to have a significant effect on that thing.  So tritium being a “low energy beta emission” makes it vastly MORE dangerous if the measuring stick is total energy released.  If the measuring yardstick were Becquerels, that would be more appropriate, at least for internal beta particle releases.  But tritium’s harm is generally measured in Grays or Sv or something that ignores the fact that for the same energy dump — the same Gray or Sv — you might absorb 100 tritium releases, or ONE release of something with a more powerful beta particle (specifically, 100 times more powerful).  The more powerful beta release does not do 100 times more damage!  It’s more like the other way around.

Of course it’s counterintuitive that the very thing the nuke industry tries to say makes tritium virtually harmless — namely, that it is a very low-energy beta release, as beta releases go — is, in fact, the thing that makes it particularly troublesome since nearly all estimates of radiation damage are based on TOTAL energy absorbed: Grays, Rem, Rad, Sv and many other measuring methods (1 Gray = 1 joule of energy dumped per Kg, for example).

In an Internet search today for the total quantity of tritium (I think the total amount of natural tritium might be about 25 lbs, the figure reportedly mentioned in Spiderman II), I found that Tufts University recognizes that tritium exit signs are ridiculous and forbids them (see below).

I used to know a guy who knew a thing or two about tritium, worked with it at Livermore for many years, he proofread my tritium papers.  He must be 90 now, I haven’t spoken to him in two or three years.





Tritium Exit Signs

The information below is also available as an Adobe Acrobat PDF File: Tritium Exit Signs.

Can tritium-containing exit signs be used at Tufts?

No. Tritium exit signs are sold under a general license from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Intact signs can be handled without special precautions except to avoid damaging the sign. However, they contain very large amounts of radioactive material in the form of tritium gas. These signs should not be purchased or used at Tufts University.

Costs can be very high when it is time to dispose of these signs. There are only a limited number of disposal options for them. Some universities have paid thousands of dollars to dispose of just a few tritium exit signs. There have also been incidents where cleanup from damaged tritium exit signs has cost tens of thousands of dollars. Special training is required to ship tritium exit signs.

If a tritium exit sign is lost, regulatory agencies need to be notified. If a tritium exit sign is damaged, it must be disposed of properly. Alternative signs which are hard-wired or battery-operated are preferred. Prior approval from the Tufts Radiation Safety Committee is required to purchase, replace or use tritium exit signs at Tufts University.


If you see a tritium exit sign at Tufts, please notify:

the Health Physics Group in Boston at 617-636-6168 or

the Tufts EH&S for Grafton or Medford at 617-636-3450.

If you find a damaged tritium exit sign, please immediately contact:

Tufts Police at x66911 and either the Health Physics Group or Tufts EH&S as above.

After hours, contact Tufts police who will summon someone from radiation safety for you.

If you break a tritium exit sign, leave the area. Ventilate the area if feasible. Contact Tufts Police and either the Health Physics Group or Tufts EH&S.

How do I identify a tritium exit sign?

A tritium exit sign has a radioactive materials label on it. The label is often on the bottom or an edge. The radiation trefoil symbol is usually visible. An example of a radiation trefoil symbol can be seen below:

Other information about when the sign was manufactured and how much tritium it contains (for example, 7 Curies) is also on the label. These signs tend to have a thin profile, usually less than 1 1/2 (1.5) inches thick.

Luminescent signs, made of thin plastic less than 1/4 (0.25) inch thick, are not tritium exit signs. Signs that are hardwired or have batteries are also not tritium exit signs. Signs with fluorescent or incandescent bulbs are not tritium exit signs.

If you are not sure if a sign contains tritium, please contact either the Health Physics Group or Tufts EH&S.


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It’s just a little release … of plutonium! (The public gets WIPPed again)



Per Petersen spoke at the last SCE meeting.  Here’s a response to his comment in the NewsOK paper May 16, 2014:


There are several problems with your kudos.  Firstly, smoke detectors save lives.  Plutonium leaks do not.  However, disposal of smoke detectors, like that of tritium signs, is problematic at best (especially when the disposal method is a house fire).  Tufts University, for example, bans tritium signs because of the “very large amounts of tritium” they contain.  (Perhaps they (and other institutions) ban Americium-241 smoke detectors, too, I don’t know.  There are alternatives.) At their web site, the NRC claims that tritium signs: “are designed to be inherently safe so they can be used without the need for radiation training” although a few paragraphs later, they admit that: “Tritium EXIT signs must NOT be disposed of as normal trash” and, in fact, require special licensed handling after all, when being disposed of “properly.”  1300 smoke detector’s Americium (half-life ~432 years) will be a hazard for about 4,000 years in the environment if it gets out through carelessness, fires, etc..  WIPP’s “little” release of plutonium will be a hazard for about half a million years (10 to 20X its half-life of 24,400 years).  There is no “safe” dose, although the individual dose to anyone will, as duly noted, be very, very low.  And so will their dose from thousands of other nuclear mistakes that didn’t need to happen.



Original article:


ome perspective on the 1.3 mCi release from the WIPP

Robert Hayes • Modified: May 16, 2014 at 8:30 am •  Published: May 16, 2014

The WIPP radioactivity release scared a lot of people.  This occurred in spite of state and federal officials publicly reassuring people they were safe and that there was no danger to them or their children from the release.  The actual amount of radioactivity released from the WIPP site was less than 2 mCi.  This number may seem meaningless to most readers who are not familiar with any form of radiation science.  As a comparison, a typical nuclear medicine procedure such as a stress test or a thyroid treatment will require anywhere from around 2 to 20 mCi of radioactivity to be injected intravenously into the patient.  Although the radioactivity in nuclear medicine is generated in the core of a nuclear reactor, any physician involved with radiology and radiobiology will correctly tell you that the dose you receive from these medical exposures are sufficiently small to be more than justified by the utility of the procedure.  Typical doses from nuclear medicine applications range from around 100 mrem up to 1,000 mrem.

When a fixed amount of radioactivity is ingested, it tends to give a smaller dose than when the same amount is inhaled which also tends to give a smaller dose than when it is injected.  A radioactive intake of the same amount of radioactivity will give a larger dose for radionuclides having certain properties.  These properties include longer half lives, higher energies and alpha radiation.

That the WIPP release gave insignificant doses to the environment and the public is certainly not a justification for the event.  The actual truth is that when it comes to medical and work related exposures, these are chosen by the individual receiving them and they are informed of the risks prior to the event.  When someone is aware of the risks prior to carrying out a task or being exposed to a situation, they are generally not as fearful.  This is likely because an informed person understands how to protect themselves if there is a need.  When it comes to radioactivity, a good rule of thumb is to compare any exposure to background radiation.  Life is designed to exist in radiation fields and to even be radioactive itself.  Too much radiation like too much lead, heat, pressure, vibration etc can be dangerous and even deadly but not at levels routinely experienced in the environment.

Examples are the dose you get from natural potassium in your body which is required to be healthy giving doses of 7 to 24 mrem per year because potassium is naturally radioactive giving off high energy gamma and beta radiation.  We also receive a continual exposure from cosmic radiation by not living underground which gives a yearly dose of around 26 mrem at sea level or 35 mrem at an altitude of 3000 ft.  The biggest natural dose comes from not breathing continually filtered air which gives you around 220 mrem per year.  If you lived in the rocky mountains, all that granite in the rock has small inclusions with concentrations of radium generating higher levels of radon so any breath of fresh mountain air brings into your lungs radioactivity having all the same properties of that in the WIPP release at approximately the same level.  This being heavy metals with alpha, beta and gamma radiation.  In other words, the nearest neighbors to the WIPP site(which are ranches)  received a larger dose just from breathing regular air that one day during the release than the entire lifetime dose they will have received from the activity given off by the WIPP release.  According to the WIPP website (www.wipp.energy.gov), the nearest rancher would have received 0.02 mrem of a lifetime exposure from the WIPP release.

Some people say that, “accidents happen”.  Every safety expert I have ever met believes that all accidents are preventable.  The cause(s) along with any and all contributing factors are under investigation and being actively sought out to insure a repeat event does not occur. I don’t expect to ever meet anyone who would argue that because the release was so small that it was therefore ok.  I rather believe we are fortunate that the release was as small as it was.

The key element to note again is the dose.  When dose is reported in units of rem or mrem (where 1 rem =1000 mrem), then all the risk effects are factored in to give an equal effect at the same dose.  This is true irrespective of the radiation type or location where the exposure occurred.  In other words,  1 rem has the same risk from any source of radiation no matter how it was acquired.

The short story is that although the release was not justified, it resulted in doses to onsite workers which were orders of magnitude below legal limits and substantially below any measurable harm to the public or environment.  Clearly there was a problem at the facility but there is no reason for anyone to fear or worry about the radioactivity which was released.

As with any industrial or natural incident, the public health authorities should be relied upon to keep the public safe and informed should any event at the WIPP or any other facility occur.  Note that this would not be some fly by night website (and there are some very unreliable websites out there intending to scare people).  Examples of reliable sources of information include the State of New Mexico Environment Department, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Department of Energy, and your local city/county emergency operations center to name a few state and federal  organizations.


James Conca · Senior Scientist at RJ Lee Group, Inc.

Excellent perspective, Rob. We will correct the factors that caused this and resume operations. This waste still has to get in the ground and WIPP is still the best place to put it geologically and physiographically.
  • Martin Kral ·  Top Commenter

    Put this into perspective: WIPP isn’t even responsible for the radioactive leak and now they and Carlsbad are being punished for it. The source of the problem originated at the Los Alamos National Labs when they change the formula of an absorbing material they put inside the barrel with the waste material. That is not a WIPP procedure. Now the DOE wants to remove 90 jobs in Carlsbad by transferring record keeping to another National Lab at Oat Ridge. What does record keeping at WIPP have to do with unsafe change procedures at LANL? Stupid, that is all I got to say about this.
  • Per Peterson · UC Berkeley

    Another way to place this 1.3 millicurie release into perspective is to note that a typical smoke detector contains a microcurie, or 0.001 millicuries of americium. So the total release involved a quantity of radioactivity equivalent to what one would find in 1300 smoke detectors.
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Comments for Victor Dricks, NRC, July 23, 2012


Interesting that Mr. Dricks does not mention the obvious flaw in his

logic: If SCE followed the rules, the rules must be faulty for such a
dangerous condition to have been allowed to occur. And to blame this
fiasco on a computer program, as if the program wrote itself and
tested itself! The AIT report clearly blames lack of real-world
modeling too. And in the real world we call that negligence. However
of perhaps even more significance is the simple fact that the AIT
would not rule out the possibility of Fluid Elastic Instability, and
of course they practically expect Fluid Induced Vibration, in Unit 2,
since they couldn’t be sure of what the differences really were.
Operating at reduced output of 70% — or 30%, for that matter — might
NOT cause the upper portions of the steam generators to have more
liquid as opposed to steam, and thus enough dampening. And what if
more capacity is needed in an emergency – will FEI set in as the “two”
of a one-two punch after FIV knocks out one of the two steam
generators in Unit 2 when this “attempt”to restart at reduced capacity
fails? And what will it prove anyway? That SanO can generate more
spent fuel with nowhere to put it? That it can make money
hand-over-fist even at reduced capacity, since major accidents and
long-term spent fuel storage is not SCE’s responsibility, and even the
SG replacement was paid for by the ratepayers — and will be again if
an attempt is made to fix this broken monstrosity on SoCal’s coast,
where 8 million people would have to be evacuated in a matter of
minutes, hours at best, if something were to go wrong. As if such an
evacuation were possible on earthquake-damaged roads! My full review
of the AIT report, explaining SCE’s “can’t go forward, can’t go back”
problem, appears at my blog: http://goo.gl/1MEBO


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Comment left on FB about NAS study today:


Ace Hoffman 12:51pm Jul 18
Feedback Date:7/18/2012
Project Title:Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants
PIN Number:DELS-NRSB-12-01

It is my sincere hope that as reasonable an estimate as possible be made of what was released to the environment from Fukushima, expressed not just as “Bq” since no indication of half-life is included in that sort of figure, so no estimate of the long-term and wide-spread nature of this disaster can be ascertained merely from such values. Merely adding whether it is an alpha, beta, or gamma emission does little to relieve the mystery of what damage might be done by Fukushima to human and other species, since some isotopes biologically “target” certain organs, and some bioaccumulate in the food chain, and some decay into even-more nasty substances, and some decays do virtually all their damage at the end of their tracks, causing so-called low-energy emissions to actually be MORE dangerous for a given total amount of energy emitted than so-called high-energy emissions (such as beta emissions from tritium, which are low-energy but can do a lot of damage). The first lesson to be learned is the extent of the damage. The second lesson to be learned is the inability of humans or their machines (or their software) to build a perfect world, and nuclear energy promises an impossible-to-achieve near-perfect level of containment of their waste. That level of containment has proven time and again to be unattainable, and, of course, Fukushima makes that blatantly obvious. The lesson to be learned is: Why haven’t we learned that the needed perfection is far from attainable, and shut the OTHER plants down? And yes, especially the 23 very-similar reactors in America. Japan almost learned the lesson of shutdown from Fukushima, but opened one reactor site, and hundreds of thousands DID learn it there and continue to protest against restart, but, amid scandal after scandal including their organized crime syndicates sending workers to Fukushima with horrible working conditions, the question really is: Do we want to learn that lesson the hard way, like they did, or the relatively easy way, by backing out now, BEFORE we have our own Fukushima? Who will be the first learned scientist to begin a flood of learned scientists who will admit nuclear energy is as sad a failure of science and technology as any asteroid we could have stopped but didn’t? Fukushima was something we could have stopped, but didn’t. But not by perfecting the technology. We stop it by getting rid of the technology. It’s the buggy-whip of the 20th Century.

Ace Hoffman
Ace Hoffman 12:51pm Jul 18
Here’s what I just left there:
Original Post
Cathy Iwane
Cathy Iwane 9:13am Jul 18
There is a meeting taking place tomorrow on July 19 at the National Academy of Sciences in DC, where the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss what can be learned from the Fukushima disaster. Help me by adding any comments to this link, or better yet, attend the meeting!

Beyond Nuclear – Japan – Take action on Fukushima lessons learned

Submit comments and questions to the scientific panel or attend the DC meeting ! Next Thursday,….
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Comments on KPBS February 1, 2012 about SanO’s most recent shutdown

Subject: “a catastrophe waiting to happen…”



Radioactive Leak At San Onofre Nuclear Plant Called ‘Low Level’ By NRC

Some Residents, Enviro Groups Call For Permanent Shutdown

Feb. 1, 2012 | By Ed Joyce

NRC spokesman Victor Dricks said radioactive gas “could have” escaped the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the northern San Diego coast after the Tuesday shutdown.

Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander said the amount would have been “extremely small” and possibly not detectable by monitors.

The company and federal regulators said the release would not have posed a safety risk for the public.

“It would have been very, very small, low level, which would not pose a danger to anyone,” said Victor Dricks, NRC spokesman.

The leak occurred in equipment installed in the plant in fall 2010. The leak happened in one of thousands of tubes which carry radioactive water from the Unit 3 reactor.

Dricks said the company has found damage to other tubes, which he called “unusual.”

Edison spokesman Alexander could not confirm any additional damage, pending an inspection of the equipment.

He said the leak at the plant doesn’t meet standards for an emergency classification.

“U.S. nuclear power plants classify emergencies in four ways from the least severe to the most severe,” said Alexander during an interview on KPBS-FM’s Midday. “This doesn’t even rate the lowest rating.”

Carlsbad resident Ace Hoffman said despite recent upgrades, the aging plant needs to be mothballed.

“This plant in the middle of this population after this many years is a catastrophe waiting to happen,” said Hoffman. “But what it does show is that the plant is continuing to degrade. And they don’t know where it’s going to fail next. And even if they do a whole lot of maintenance, they don’t know where it’s going to fail next.”

Hoffman is a member of the group, Nuclear Free California, which wants to shut down the two nuclear power plants operating in the state.

The group, Friends of the Earth, said the radioactive release from the San Onofre nuclear plant is “a sharp reminder that a Fukushima could happen here.”

The San Onofre plant is owned by Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside.

Southern California Edison serves nearly 14 million residents with electricity in Central and Southern California.

Dricks with the NRC said the federal regulatory agency is evaluating the plant’s response to the leak.

Alexander said San Onofre personnel will evaluate the cause of the leak and the steps required to repair it before resuming operations.

Once the problem is resolved, Alexander said it is expected to take several days for the Unit 3 reactor to be restarted.

Unit 2 is currently offline for a planned outage intended for maintenance, refueling and technology upgrades.

But Southern California Edison said it has ample reserve power to meet customer needs while Unit 3 is offline due to the leak.

The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.

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Quinoa Salad — Delicious!

Now for something completely different!

Quinoa Salad (invented by Sharon Hoffman, December, 2011):

(1 1/2 cups when raw) Cooked Quinoa

1/2 cup shredded carrots (chopped)

3/4 cup edamame

~15 chopped black olives

~ 8 – 10 marinated artichoke chunks, chopped into smaller pieces

1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes (chopped)

1/2 small onion, very thinly sliced

Dressing (gets mixed in):

Total of 1/2 cup, comprised of 3 parts olive oil to one part vinegar with ~ 1/4 of the vinegar replaced with lemon juice, plus:

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons of dried shallots
1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper

Combine vegetables with Quinoa while still warm, and about half a cup of dressing. Chill, adjust seasoning (dressing) if needed:  A little more vinegar, a little more lemon juice, a little more salt…


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Comment on a presentation of pro-nuclear views

Left at:


It would appear that no attempt will be made to present a counter-view to the opinions of the lock-stock-and-barrel of the nuclear industry. As a local (15-mile) resident of the worst-run nuclear power plant in America (San Onofre, and that’s the NRC’s assessment, not mine), I have no faith in the union spokespeople who get up year after year at hearings, and proclaim their commitment to doing a good job, while at the same time, the entire plant is being cited for intimidating workers who say anything else. As to the owner’s point of view, new nuclear build without loan guarantees and that awful Price-Anderson Act would never happen, and there’s a pretty good chance it won’t happen anyway. So the utilities all keep running the current reactors into the ground… or rather, they keep replacing whatever fails, be it a reactor pressure vessel head, a steam generator, or anything else they can conveniently get to. The rest, they let leak (tritium). Old reactors operated just to make money and produce waste do just that — make money for the owners, and produce waste (fission products, exactly what was released at Fukushima) for the rest of us. Nuclear power is a dead-end. No one can justify it anymore. The cost to Japan of shutting down all their nukes is insignificant compared to the costs in lost land, lives, livelihoods, quality of life, etc. of Fukushima Dai-ichi. People don’t want that here. Nuclear power hasn’t got a future here, there, or anywhere.
# Posted By Ace Hoffman | 11/3/11 10:33 PM |


From the Editor’s Desk – Martin Rosenberg

The Big Question – Is there a Future for Nuclear Power?
Posted At : May 16, 2011 3:03 PM | Posted By : Martin Rosenberg
Related Categories: Business & Corporate, Industry Structure, Nuclear, Policy, Regulatory & Legal

The future of nuclear power has become – well – radioactive.

I mean, there is no way to approach it, wrestle with it and make sense of it.

Siemens – the big manufacturer- last month said it is rethinking its role in nuclear power. Its financial chief said back in April, “Fukushima has to be an occasion for taking stock” regarding the nuclear genie.

That is huge. There are not that many industrial conglomerates with the heft of Siemens that can help nurture and supply a nuclear renaissance. If the German company walks away from the game, the game gets a lot less interesting.

Then there is Germany – long a nervous Nellie about nuclear, which it has shunned, embraced and now is prepared to shun once again. Chancellor Merkel has said the country should close all of it 17 reactors by 2021 – a mere decade off. Utilities there warn it could trigger an economic calamity and force the nation to start importing energy.

To help get our arms around the all important question – the future of nuclear power – I am convening an expert panel at high noon, East coast time, this Thursday, May 19.

John Herron, president, CEO & chief nuclear officer of Entergy Nuclear, will provide a deep read on what the utility industry makes of the turmoil that has surrounded nuclear power ever since the nuclear crisis erupted in Japan. Entergy has 6,000 employees at its 12 nuclear units.

Jim Hunter, the utility director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, will help us gauge the vast economic – and employment – impact riding on the future of nuclear power. IBEW represents 15,000 workers at 42 nuclear facilities.

The IBEW declared after the Japan accident, “The tragedy in Japan does not equate to the nuclear industry in America and attempts to draw correlations between the two constitute a disservice to the public and to the reasoned consideration of energy policy for the future.” Hunter will help us understand the union’s point and consider its many implications during our hour-long webcast.

Meanwhile, there are numerous license applications for next generation nuclear facilities pending before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The commission is reviewing next steps forward for nuclear power in America. A top agency leader, R. William Borchardt, executive director for operations, will join in the webcast to help us understand Washington’s take on the Japan nuclear crisis – and paths forward.

Want to listen in – and ask questions online?

Register in advance for the free event at http://www.energybiz.com/nuclearfuture. See you on Thursday.

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