Radioactive waste has been released into the Hudson River for as long as Indian Point has existed. It was accepted as part of regular and routine operation of the plant. The effects of these releases were not considered from a medical perspective. It was only necessary that they be “below regulatory concern” according to standards set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the 70’s.
The plant is no longer operating. We now understand more about the adverse effects of tritium on human health and our ecosystems. We need a different plan. What was done in the past is no longer acceptable.
- Holtec has stated it plans to discharge a million gallons of radioactive water from the highly radioactive fuel pools at Indian Point into the Hudson River as early as August this year, or possibly before.
- The tritium at Indian Point is concentrated in the water of the fuel pools where the highly radioactive used fuel rods were stored. Tritium cannot be filtered out of water. If it is ingested or inhaled it lodges in cells and affects the DNA. The estimates regarding “acceptable” or ALARA (“As Low As Reasonably Achievable”) levels do not take into account the effect of ingesting these radionuclides. According to Gordon Edwards, president, Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility, “Each radioactive particle is like a tiny time bomb that will eventually ‘explode.’ When an atom disintegrates it gives off projectiles that can damage living cells, causing them to develop into cancers later.”
- In addition to tritium, the fuel pool water has been contaminated with other highly radioactive elements from the fuel rods and broken pieces from the rods: isotopes with half-lives that vary from 5.27 to 81 million years. The health hazards from exposure to long-lived radionuclides, including through inhalation or ingestion, are both cumulative and severe, including an increased risk for a variety of cancers as well as potential harm to pregnant women and their developing fetuses. What exactly is in the mixture Holtec plans to dump? How will the high level radioactive isotopes (other than tritium) be treated before releasing them into the River?
- While there are regulations and procedures governing this high level radioactive waste, the public must be informed about how it will be treated and disposed of.
- The NRC regulations do not recognize the unique vulnerability of developing fetuses, children and women. They do not take into account the seven communities that draw their water from the Hudson, consuming it on a daily basis and also using it for cooking, bathing and showering. Nor do they take into consideration fish and wildlife. Boaters, swimmers and the children who play on the shore are also neglected. The ebb and flow of currents in the Hudson River would increase the contamination of certain areas, probably those closer to shore.
- According to a 2005 report from the US National Academy of Sciences (https://www.nirs.org/wp-content/uploads/radiation/radtech/nosafedose072005.pdf), there is no safe dose of ionizing radiation. Even low doses of ionizing radiation are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects.
- While there are other ways of dealing with this radioactive waste, the least harmful, most prudent way forward is storage onsite along with the high level radioactive fuel rods until the tritium can decay or new scientific methods of removal are discovered.