It is not widely known that high levels of radionuclide emissions are released from shutdown nuclear reactor buildings, especially gaseous H-3 (tritium) and C-14. For example, UK emissions data from the Environment Agency’s annual RIFE reports (see Appendix 2) reveal that UK’s Winfrith nuclear reactor buildings (which were closed in 1995) still emitted 2 x 1012 Bq per year of tritium in 2016 ie more than 20 years later. Similar emissions exist at the long-closed reactors at Trawsfynyedd, Dounreay, Chapelcross and indeed all closed Magnox stations. In Canada, the small experimental reactors at Whiteshell in Manitoba and Rolphton in Ontario (both closed more than 30 years ago) are still emitting GBq/a quantities of tritium. In these cases, the reactors fuels have also long been removed as well. The question arises – where do these nuclides come from? And the answer, apparently, is that they ooze out of the massive concrete structures of the buildings housing nuclear reactors and from their concrete containment structures. During their operational years, very large amounts of radioactive tritium (H-3) in particular are created and travel into these structures. Why? Because very large amounts of tritium is are created during nuclear fission. Why again? Because tritium is both an activation product and a tertiary fission product of nuclear fission. This is a problem for all reactors but it is a serious problem in light water reactors and a very serious one in heavy water reactors.
Ian Fairlie 12th October 2019 read more »