For the first time in nearly four decades, the EPA is taking a closer look at the safety of leaked tritium in our water, reports David Biello for Scientific American, via Salon:
Add two extra neutrons to the lightest element and hydrogen becomes radioactive, earning the name tritium. Even before the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 regulators worried that this ubiquitous by-product of nuclear reactors could pose a threat to human health. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was only seven years old when it put the first rules on the books for tritium in 1977. But a lot has happened in the intervening decades, and it is not just a longer list of nuclear accidents.
The Chernobyl and Fukushima meltdowns let loose plenty of tritium, but so have a seemingly endless series of leaks at aging reactors in the U.S. and elsewhere. Such leaks have prompted the EPA to announce on February 4 plans to revisit standards for tritium that has found its way into water—so-called tritiated water, or HTO—along with risk limits for individual exposure to radiation and nuclear waste storage, among other issues surrounding nuclear power.