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Tritium is dangerous

Gene Bernardi Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste
Thursday June 27, 2002

To the Editor 

Geller (“Opposition to Lawrence Lab is laughable,” 5/27/02) is clueless about the laws of probability. The only way the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste (CMTW) can dominate the City Council comment period is by chance. CMTW was lucky at the council meeting Geller refers to. However, several of the speakers supporting CMTW's issue of concern: the Lab burning tritium/hazardous waste next to the Lawrence Hall of Science, were not and are not CMTW members. Furthermore,none of the “smirking” (as well as non-smirking) faces on the front page photo in Wed., May 27 Daily Planet are those of CMTW members, but rather supporters protesting the Berkeley Labs’ (LBNL’s) combustion of radioactive/hazardous waste.  

While Lawrence Berkeley Lab PR folks are feeding the public the line that tritium emissions are safe, their U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) counterparts at the Nevada Test Site have switched their concern from plutonium to tritium, because tritium, unlike plutonium, dissolves in water. “Tritium is considered the most dangerous of the materials left over from the nuclear blasts because it dissolves easily in ground water and poses a threat to public health for more than 100 years. The risk from plutonium in ground water is small because the particles that get into the water don't move very far.” (Tritium stirs concern at 

Test Site”, Las Vegas Sun, Jan. 24, 1999, ,>) Geller, it seems, blindly trusts DOE, unlike Dr. John Gofman, Professor Emeritus UCB Dept. of Molecular and Cell Biology, formerly with the Manhattan Project at Berkeley's Radiation Lab (now LBNL) and Director of the Biomedical Division at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Gofman states: ‘Credible assurance’ can not be obtained from anyone with a conflict of interest – like the Lab itself or DOE. It would be ridiculous for the Lab to tell the public and its state and local officials, ‘Just trust us’, and it would be the purest arrogance to tell the public 'it's none of your business’. The public always has a huge stake in the proper handling of hazardous wastes, both radioactive and non-radioactive. People who operate facilities with the potential to pollute need the humility and goodwill to recognize that the public has every right to impose pre-emptive measures for self-defense against such poisons before they escape. 

This is especially unarguable when the potential pollutant is radioactive, since it is clear that there is NO threshold dose-level (no safe dose, so risk-free dose) of ionizing radiation. Thus, nuclear pollution, in the aggregate, causes premeditated random murder.” 

Lets' not forget that while the Lawrence Berkeley Lab hides under the aura of UC. management, it is, after all, owned by the U.S. D.O.E. 

Without benefit of public notification, or an environmental report subjected to public review and comment, the DOE's LBNL, as an afterthought, on June 18 e-mailed Berkeley City Council members (hauling had already begun) that up to eight truckloads per day of radioactive concrete and metallic waste from the Bevatron deconstruction are being hauled through City of Berkeley streets, destined (if not recycled into consumer goods, or buried in Richmond or Livermore landfill) for burial at the Nevada test-site. 


Gene Bernardi  

Committee to Minimize  

Toxic Waste