Mayor's comments taken to task

Pembroke Daily Observer: Kelly O'Grady, RN, Pembroke - February 9, 2008


Regarding the story - Tritium levels safe in city; mayor says residents have nothing to fear (The Daily Observer, January 31)

I was also at the January workshop sponsored by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) along with three other Pembroke residents.

Mayor Jacyno's summary, presented to city council and reported in The Daily Observer, notes that, "Nine out of 10 experts tell you that you shouldn't be afraid [of tritium], and one says things could be improved."

To be correct, there were actually five experts present on the panel - not 10. Four experts were from the UK and one was from AECL. A sixth expert from the U.S. couldn't attend due to bad weather.

Contrary to what Mr. Jacyno conveys, three of the five panelists were critical of many aspects of the methods used by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) to calculate human radiation dose resulting from tritium exposure. The fourth expert couldn't comment because his field of expertise was in epidemiology and not in dose modeling. And from the notes prepared by the absent U.S. expert and circulated to the workshop, it was clear that he too was critical of the ICRP's methods regarding tritium doses. One expert agreed with the ICRP's methods. Dr. Lydia Zablotska studied more than 45, 000 Canadian nuclear power industry workers exposed to tritium and external radiation, and found high excess relative risks of leukemia and solid cancers (Zablotska et al., 2004).

These findings suggest possible increased tritium risks and do not support Mr. Jacyno's contention that there is no risk from tritium.

Dr. Ian Fairlie, a researcher from the UK, also presented some pretty startling statistics during the symposium. Canadian allowable releases of tritium to the environment are much higher than those allowed in France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. No one disputed these findings.

A summary of tritium releases from nuclear power reactors in Canada, including SRB Technologies located in Pembroke, shows SRB topped the list for environmental releases of tritium for the years 2001 to 2004. No one disputed these findings.

All experts on the panel agreed that the methods used to calculate human radiation dose resulting from exposure to tritium were unsatisfactory and should be improved. Where they disagreed was by how much tritium's exposure should be increased.

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