‘Exploring Tritium’s Danger’: a book review

By Robert Alvarez

Over the past 40 years, Arjun Makhijani has provided clear, concise, and important scientific insights that have enriched our understanding of the nuclear age. In doing so, Makhijani—now president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research—has built a solid reputation as a scientist working in the public interest. His most recent contribution to public discourse, Exploring Tritium’s Dangers, adds to this fine tradition.

A radioactive isotope of hydrogen, tritium is one the most expensive, rare, and potentially harmful elements in the world. Its rarity is underscored by its price—$30,000 per gram—which is projected to rise from $100,000 to $200,000 per gram by mid-century.

Although its rarity and usefulness in some applications gives it a high monetary value, tritium is also a radioactive contaminant that has been released widely to the air and water from nuclear power and spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plants. Makhijani points out that “one teaspoon of tritiated water (as HTO) would contaminate about 100 billion gallons of water to the US drinking water limit; that is enough to supply about 1 million homes with water for a year.”

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