Comment about THE BIG THIRST article in fastcompany.com

Comment left at:
http://www.fastcompany.com//1746753/the-big-thirst-how-is-japan-s-fukushima-nuclear-plant-making-radioactive-water#disqus_thread

Hi,

Tritium doesn't usually come from normal hydrogen in water, which would have to first become deuterium  and then tritium.  Nor does most of it come from the small amount of deuterium already in LWRs (Light Water Reactors) although in Canadian CANDU style reactors, I believe most it does come from the heavy water.  After all, what's heavy about it is the deuterium.  Tritium usually comes from lithium-6 which picks up a neutron and becomes lithium-7, which then splits, and one half of it is tritium, and the other half is (stable) helium.

As to "borrowing" the water as one commentator describes it (and thermally shocking the local flora and fauna both when they turn it on and when then suddenly shut it off), ALL reactors leak primary coolant into secondary coolant loops, and secondary coolant loops leak into tertiary coolant loops (for PWRs (Pressurized Water Reactors.  BWRs (Boiling Water Reactors) have only two coolant loops, not three)).

All reactors leak.  Those with cooling towers turn millions of gallons of water into steam every day.  Some of the steam is HTO, not H2O.  Tritium has been found under dozens of U. S. reactors.  It's probably under all of them but perhaps they haven't looked yet for most of them. But they leak everything, vent noble gases constantly, and have accidents that should be included in any calculation of what the "average" plant puts out, because accidents happen and will continue to happen if we keep using this very flawed technology.  Tritium is usually "removed" by evaporation...

You cannot filter out tritium from normal water with normal methods available to average citizens.  Nuclear scientists with large budgets can do it.

Also, I would say that a fairly substantial amount of radioactive material in these pools would also be lofted into the air during the process of evaporation.  You would want to filter the evaporated air.

But, and lastly, HEPA filters and ion exchanges and so forth only do a partial job.  And filters break down very quickly in radioactive environments.  And filters need to be checked regularly and changed frequently to work at all.  See what happened at Davis-Bese in 2002 if you think the nuclear industry can be relied on to change the filters regularly, or even check them!

But yeah, nuclear reactors use (and poison) and awful lot of water, and as water becomes more valuable and we all see what nuclear power can do to billions of gallons of water a day (poison it for years to come...) perhaps we'll all finally take a proper look at -- and reject -- this technology.

At least I hope so!
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comments I was commenting on:
    • Wesley N. House
      Pure heavy water is not radioactive.
    • John Wheeler 
      Saying that nuclear plants and other electricity generators “use” water is very misleading. It is more accurate to say power plants “borrow” the water for cooling and return it a few degrees warmer. The water flows in and then it flows out. After it leaves the power plant the water remains available for recreation, drinking, the environment, and other purposes.In addition, while Mr Fishman would lead us to believe the cooling water from rivers, lakes and the sea goes into nuclear reactors to become irradiated, that is not true. Except for rare accident conditions (like at Fukushima), cooling water that returns to the environment does not come into contact with radioactive parts of a nuclear power plant, and is not radioactive except for small amounts of naturally occurring radioactive materials already in the environment.

      John Wheeler
      Producer, This Week in Nuclear

  • brian grainger 
    Do you ever fact check beofre you publish this stuff? Yes, there are radioactive verisons of water. the hydrogen in water can be irradiated to Deuterium or Tritium. So H20 becomes D2O.
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