Alpha contamination at Bruce
We received this information from Gordon Edwards, a highly credible and persistent critic of the nuclear industry. It included an attachment which we are including. It's quite a bit of reading but a very important topic.
----- Original Message -----
From: Gordon Edwards
To: Gordon Edwards
Sent: Wednesday, June 23, 2010 7:39 AM
Subject: Alpha contamination at Bruce
The following correspondence has to do with the discovery
that hundreds of men working on the "refurbishment" of the
Bruce reactors have had their bodies "accidentally"?
contaminated by?radioactive materials that give off
non-penetrating, but?highly dangerous,?alpha radiation.
The authorities have suddenly awoken to the fact (obvious
to anyone who knows about the various types of radiation)
that other workers in other plants may also have experienced
alpha contamination of their bodies.
The man identified as ?xxxxxxxx ?is a researcher, working
for one of the parties currently represented in the Ontario
This alarming discovery of irresponsible behaviour on the
part of Canadian nuclear authorities has serious implications
for the long-term health and safety of the workers at Bruce who
have been contaminated, as well as to the workers at Pickering
and Point Lepreau who have very likely also been so ?exposed ,
as well as to the workers in the Trois-Rivi?res area who will be
involved in the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 reactor if that?
ill-advised project goes ahead.
June 23 2010
This situation is absolutely disgusting. ?It shows a degree of
incompetence and callousness on the part of the entire Canadian?
nuclear establishment, including CNSC, OPG, Bruce Power, ... ,
that is a major disgrace.
My understanding is that these men are not atomic workers, for
the most part, but just ordinary tradesmen who have been hired
to work on the refurbishment. ?They were not given protective
equipment to wear nor were they trained specifically on the
question of internal alpha contamination as opposed to external?
Now these men's bodies are contaminated with very long-lived?
radioactive materials which are lodged directly in their bodily
tissues, so that they will be irradiated internally for years to come.
These radioactive materials include isotopes of plutonium, americium,
curium, neptunium, and other transuranic elements which do not
exist in nature but are created inside the nuclear reactor. ?They are
among the most radio-toxic elements on earth.
It seems the supervisors themselves were not sufficiently trained to realize
that there are ALWAYS long-lived radioactive materials called alpha-
emitters in the primary cooling system of decrepit old reactors.
When these pipes are cut apart and manipulated some of this alpha-
emitting material goes into the atmosphere and gets inhaled into?
worker's lungs and deposited on their skin and clothing so that their
bodies become contaminated with alpha emitters. Miniscule amounts
can infiltrate into their skin pores or into their hair follicles as well as
being absorbed directly through the skin and/or ingested by contamination
Alpha emitters are among the deadliest of all radioactive materials. ?Per
unit of radiation energy deposited in tissue, alpha radiation is about 20
times more damaging than gamma or beta radiation. ?Countless thousands
of people have been killed by alpha emitters such as: radon gas, radium-226.
polonium-210 (which is responsible for up to 90% of all deaths attributed to
cigarette smoking), and depleted uranium (from DU munitions). ?These are
all alpha-emitting substances.
This episode at Bruce represents a massive failure of Canada's regulatory?
regime to?adequately protect workers (or even inform them of the risks!).
July 22 2010
Important points to note about alpha radiation:
(1) Alpha radiation is a non-penetrating form of radioactivity.
?? ? It is harmless outside the body, but extremely damaging to
?? ? living cells once it gets inside the body -- usually through
?? ? inhalation or ingestion, but also through cuts or lesions on
?? ? the skin or (in the case of the more energetic alpha emitters)
?? ? by being lodged in skin pores or hair follicles.
?? ? See http://ccnr.org/alpha_in_lung.html
?? ? See http://ccnr.org/paulson_legacy.html
(2) For decades, the Regulatory Agency (now CNSC, previously
?? ? AECB) has been extremely negligent in not requiring licensees
?? ? to acknowledge the dangers of alpha radiation, or to require?
?? ? licensees to teach the?basic facts about alpha radiation to their
?? ? workers. ?I am sure if these workers were interviewed they will
?? ? say that they knew nothing about alpha radiation, and the same
?? ? very likely goes for the supervisors. ?To allow this situation to
?? ? exist and to persist is primarily a regulatory failure -- the CNSC
?? ? has a legal obligation to "disseminate objective scientific information"
?? ?about the nature of the risks to those who may be affected. ?This has
?? ?not been done in the case of alpha radiation, for decades.
?? See for example ? ??
?? ?pages 7-10.
(4) The latency period (waiting period) for cancer and other long-term
?? ? ?biological effects to appear is typically measured in decades. ?When
?? ? ?various radiation-induced cancers and other diseases begin to appear,
?? ? ?it will be virtually impossible for these men to "prove" that their diseases
?? ? ?were caused by radiation exposure. ?Because of the relatively small
?? ? ?numbers involved, statistical methods will also not be helpful.
(3) Given these facts, one can make the following reasonable?
?? ? ?recommendations:
?? ? ?A. Bruce Power should provide no-fault insurance, at company
?? ? ? ? ? expense, for any workers who have been or may have been
?? ? ? ? ? exposed to alpha contamination, and who subsequently
?? ? ? ? ? develop any of a large range of cancers that are know to be
?? ? ? ? ? potentially radiation-caused. ?The U.S. Government has
?? ? ? ? ? adopted this kind of "no-questions-asked" compensation for
?? ? ? ? ? workers in the nation's uranium enrichment plants (where,
?? ? ? ? ? by the way, the radiation exposures are mainly alpha).
?? ? ?B. Bruce Power should identify and publish a list of the exact?
?? ? ? ? ?radioactive isotopes?that are involved in the internal alpha?
?? ? ? ? ?doses of these workers. ?In other words, what?different
?? ? ? ? ?isotopes of plutonium, what different isotopes of?americium, etc.
?? ? ? ? ?This is important because each radioisotope has its own
?? ? ? ? ?biochemistry and will tend to go to different parts of the body,
?? ? ? ? ?which greatly affects the biological effectiveness of the doses?
?? ? ? ??which?are delivered to the cells in that particular part of the body.
?? ? C. Bruce Power should provide each worker with a detailed personal
?? ? ? ? "body burden" -- an inventory of what radioisotopes, in what
?? ? ? ? quantities, are lodged in their bodies, together with realistic
?? ? ? ? "error bands" indicating the range of possibilities, since these
?? ? ? ? measurements are not precise.
?? ?D. Since neither Bruce Power nor the CNSC has sufficient medical
?? ? ? ? expertise (both institutions are dominated by physicists, chemists,
?? ? ? ? engineers, etc, rather than bio-medical people) and since there
?? ? ? ? is an obvious conflict of interest, the Ontario or Canadian gov't
?? ? ? ? should commission a team of outside biomedical experts to
?? ? ? ? supervise the examination, interpretation, and transmission of
?? ? ? ? biomedically important information to these workers and to the
?? ? ? ? public and their political representatives.
I'm off to Detroit for four days -- I'll be back late Saturday night.
A good scientific reference on alpha radiation is ?BEIR IV,
published by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1988:
Health Risks of Radon and Other Internally Deposited Alpha-Emitters
(BEIR = Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation)
WHAT FOLLOWS IS WHAT I RECEIVED FROM xxxxxxxxxx :
Gordon - are you up on this latest revelation of alpha contamination at Bruce?
There is some media interest in this - are there any?
key messages we should be passing along?
Is there anything particularly notable about this?
Below is an internal Bruce Power memo sent out last Friday.? Do we know how many
time the CNSC has issued corrective action against Bruce Power on this issue?? See
From: BNPD GLOBAL EMAILs
> Sent:Friday, June 18, 2010 11:35 AM
> To:BNPD-Bruce Power Users ( ALL )
> Subject:Alpha Extent of Condition Program
>?Following the discovery of alpha contamination on the Restart project,
> Bruce Power has implemented an extent of condition program to fully
> assess alpha across the site, including operations at Bruce A and B.
> This program reflects the absolute priority we place on nuclear safety
> and our commitment to having in place world class radiation protection
> for our employees. It is also being conducted on the basis of our
> commitment to full and open communication of information about alpha
> contamination and the actions we have taken to deal with it.
> Additional monitoring and control measures have already been put in
> place at Bruce A and B in the light of our experience on the Restart
> project. The area of highest probability of exposure to alpha is fuel
> handling and, as a precautionary measure, we have started to assess
> the dose that workers involved in that activity might have received.
>?Initial results for one long-time fuel handling worker at Bruce A
> indicate that dose attributable to alpha has been received.
>?Based on this first result from fuel handling, we will be sampling
> additional employees who, based on job duties, may have been exposed
> to alpha.?Results obtained from these samples will be used to develop
> additional testing criteria.Those selected for testing will be
> notified by their supervisor and briefed on the sampling procedure. It
> is expected that sampling will be completed within the next three
> weeks with preliminary results available approximately five weeks
> after the samples are submitted.
> We have shared our findings with the Canadian Nuclear Safety
> Commission and nuclear operations colleagues in Ontario Power
> Generation, NB Power and Hydro-Quebec.
> We will update you with more information as it becomes available. In
> the meantime, please address any questions you have to your
> supervisor. Considerable information on alpha is also available on the
> Bruce A Restart intranet website that is accessible through the home
> page of the Bruce Power intranet. There will also be a feature on
> alpha in the July Safety and Business Performance video.
> Approved for distribution by
> Norm Sawyer, EVP and Chief Nuclear Officer, Bruce A
> Ken Ellis, EVP and Chief Nuclear Officer, Bruce B