New Brunswick’s nuclear reactor emits high levels of radioactivity, increasing cancer risk

by Ian Fairlie

Expert report for the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group

New Brunswick Power’s Point Lepreau nuclear reactor on the Bay of Fundy emits much higher levels of radioactive tritium than other nuclear reactors in Canada. Ingesting and breathing in tritium increases the risk of cancer in humans and other animals.

Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and international agencies recognise it as an unusually hazardous radioactive substance. One of its properties is to bind with carbohydrates, proteins and lipids in cells to form organically-bound tritium (OBT) which sticks inside the body for years.

These alarming findings will be tabled on May 10 by the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group in Saint John during Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings on the application by NB Power for an unprecedented 25-year extension of its licence to operate its Lepreau reactor. The CNSC is the regulator of all nuclear activities in Canada.

Although industry scientists in Canada claim tritium has low toxicity and does not bioaccumulate, official reports show tritium is twice to three times more radiotoxic compared to external gamma radiation. And many studies indicate OBT levels increase the longer people are exposed to tritiated water.

Considerable evidence exists – from many epidemiology studies around the world, that children who live near nuclear plants emitting large amounts of tritium are more likely to get leukemia than those living further away. References to all these studies are included in the appendix to the CNSC submission by the Passamaquoddy Recognition Group.

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