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Gordon Edwards

I am very pleased to let you know that Concerned Citizens of Renfrew County is collaborating with the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility and other groups on a new initiative aimed at reducing the tritium hazard in Canada.

The initiative is called the Tritium Awareness Project (TAP). We invite you to visit the TAP website, www.tapcanada.org where we have assembled lots of interesting information, personal stories, media reports, scientific papers and fact sheets on tritium.

Tritium is a unique and serious radioactive hazard that can cause cancer, birth defects, miscarriages and a host of other health problems. Its potential to cause harm to humans has been greatly underestimated by Canadian regulators such as Health Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Canadians are exposed to much higher levels of tritium than citizens of any other country in the world because of the fact that CANDU reactors produce more than 40 times more tritium than other reactor types.

The TAP advisory board includes internationally-recognized independent scientists such as Dr. Rosalie Bertell and Dr. Ian Fairlie. Advisory board members bring years of experience to this initiative. Their combined expertise covers the fields of health, education, regulatory and legislative issues and nuclear engineering. You can read short bios of the Advisory board members in the "About TAP" section of our website.

In the coming months TAP hopes raise awareness about tritium, demystify the nature of this dangerous material for public and politicians alike, and help to bring about regulatory changes that will reduce tritium emissions and exposures in Canada.

We would greatly appreciate your support by spreading the word about tritium and the TAP among your family, friends and colleagues.

Most Canadians have heard of tritium as an unwanted radioactive byproduct of Canadian nuclear reactors, that is given off into the air and the water surrounding Canadian CANDU nuclear reactors in large amounts on a routine basis.

But how many Canadians realize that tritium is an important nuclear explosive material in all nuclear warheads? How many know that the principal market for tritium is military, for use in nuclear weapons?

How many are aware that India has learned to capture the tritium produced in their own CANDU-type reactors (civilian, electricity- producing power plants) for military use in nuclear weapons?

Even the U.S. military gets its military tritium from a "peaceful" nuclear power reactor operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority -- the Watts-Bar power plant on the Tennessee River.

So much for the separation between "Atoms For Peace" and "Atoms For War." It is a convenient myth used to hid an inconvenient truth.

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Agency aims to reduce tritium

By Rob Pavey|, Staff Writer, Augusta Chronicle Friday, May 01, 2009

The National Nuclear Safety Administration, which oversees the nation's nuclear weapons program, is taking a series of steps to reduce the amount of tritium produced at Savannah River Site.

The developments include placing the site's one-of-a-kind Tritium Extraction Facility in "responsive operations mode," which means it is maintained at peak readiness but used only when needed; and temporarily shutting the facility down for 10 years.

The reductions, detailed in a Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board document obtained Thursday by The Augusta Chronicle, suggest the Obama administration's yet-to-be-announced nuclear policies will include further cuts in the nation's nuclear arsenal.

"I think this is very significant because the new administration has yet to do what is called an NPR, or 'Nuclear Posture Review' outlining those policies, and this gives us a look at what's already going on at the highest levels," said Tom Clements, the southeastern nuclear campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth.

President Obama's NPR, required by law of each president, is due out in late 2009 or early 2010.

"Further reductions mean they need less tritium and it looks like they are starting to implement actions relating to future disarmament, especially if it would save money," he said.

The current "responsive operations mode" of the SRS tritium facility is projected to save $10 million per year.

Tritium has a half-life of 12.5 years and must be replenished periodically. Every warhead in the U.S. arsenal, from submarines to land-based silos to strategic bombers, has one thing in common: its reservoir of tritium -- the hydrogen gas that increases its explosive power -- is maintained and recharged at SRS.

The tritium is produced in the Watts Bar reactor operated in Tennessee by the Tennessee Valley Authority and shipped to the SRS Tritium Extraction Facility for separation and processing.

According to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board report, the current "responsive operations" strategy will allow the facility to be used at least once per year for the next four years and will utilize cross-trained personnel from other facilities.

"However, in an effort to further reduce costs, NNSA is considering a temporary shutdown of up to 10 years," the report said.

Jim Giusti, a DOE spokesman at the site, said the current responsive operations mode enables the facility to meet all its needs.

"Anytime we need to extract tritium from these rods, we will still be able to do it," he said. "The facility is staffed at all times and it is not deserted; we keep it in safe condition so it can be operated whenever we need it."

According to the Energy Department, the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile has been reduced by 50 percent since 2001, making it the smallest since the Eisenhower administration. In 2007, then-President Bush directed the stockpile be reduced 15 percent in coming years.

Reach Rob Pavey at (706) 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com

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