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Radioactive Health Alert in Peterborough: Tritium

by Zach Ruiter

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Safe and Green Energy (SAGE) Peterborough Issues Radioactive Health Alert

Shield Source, located at the Peterborough Airport, manufactures glow-in-the-dark signs.  Self-illuminating ‘EXIT’ signs are filled with a radioactive hydrogen called tritium, a waste product from Ontario’s nuclear reactors.

Shield Source has been releasing large amounts of radioactive hydrogen to the local environment for 25 years, and needlessly so, as safer alternative technologies exist for manufacturing the signs.  Tritium also happens to be the detonating component in nuclear weapons and was used to detonate the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. 

The normal background level of tritium in the Peterborough area is 6 ro 7 radioactive disintegrations per second per litre of water (6 to 7 Bq/L). 

Apples grown within an 8km radius of Peterborough are highly radioactive.  Apples from a tree located on Brealey Drive 4.5kms away from Shield Source are routinely sampled to detect radioactive tritium concentrations in the local environment as a result of emissions from Shield Source Inc.

In August 2009 Apples from the ‘Tritium Tree’ on Brealey Drive measured 878 Bq/L.  In 2010 the concentrations averaged 223 Bq/L. 

Tritium is a known carcinogen that can cause birth defects, genetic mutations, and autoimmune diseases.  According to a SAGE pamphlet, “every exposure adds to the risk of health effects, and long term exposure over time increases that risk”.

The Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Awareness (CCNR)’s Tritium Awareness Project TAPCANDA.ORG argues, “Tritium becomes part of the water cycle.  Falling to earth as radioactive rain or snow, it accumulates in the environment… its seeps into groundwater and flows into streams, lakes, rivers, aquifers, and oceans.  It is also taken up by all living organisms”.

In 2009, on behalf of SAGE, Grandfather, Millbrook Resident, and “Tritium-Tracker”, Jeff Bracket, effectively argued against Shield Source at a hearing of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commissions (CNSC), and as a result, Shield Source’s license was reduced from five to three years. 

SAGE has recently discovered information in Shield Source’s own Environmental Monitoring Reports (EMR) that on February 1st 2010, there was a major accident at the plant and 147.25 Trillion Becquerels of Tritium was released in five minutes. 

Soil tested on the lawn of the Shield Source facility where workers eat lunch at picnic benches measured 1.5 million Bq/L. 

In 2009, the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council recommended a maximum dose exposure of tritium in drinking water be capped at 20 Bq/L.  The Joint Review Panel (JRP) for the Darlington hearings recommended Ontario Power Generation’s proposed new nuclear reactors comply with the Ontario recommended limit.  

“I’ve been thinking about tritium everyday” says Natalie Guttormsson, of Canadians for Mining Awareness, a sister-group of SAGE.  

SAGE, an OPIRG Peterborough working group is coordinating the broad based community effort to raise awareness, take direct actions, and solicit letters of opposition to Shield Source’s request for a an operating license renewal for a period of ten years. 

The Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)’s legal council has been retained by SAGE to file a submission on their behalf in advance of the May 2nd hearing to take place in Ottawa. 

The public has until April 2nd to file their complaints with the Commission.  For more information about SAGE’s Tritium Awareness Peterborough program, e-mail 



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Zach Ruiter (Zach Ruiter)
Peterborough, ON
Member since December 2011

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