Skip to content


When tritium is your beverage of choice via Beyond Nuclear International

Welcome to France

By Linda Pentz Gunter

The headline — Police probe opened into rumours of unsafe tap water in Paris — raised hopes that nuclear operators might finally be held accountable for what appears to be routine radioactive contamination of drinking water in France.

News stories had circulated after a French radiological testing laboratory published findings on June 17, 2019, that more than six million French residents were drinking water contaminated with tritium released by the country’s nuclear power plants and other nuclear installations.

The laboratory — L’association pour le contrôle de la radioactivité dans l’Ouest or ACRO — raised the alarm because, it said, the presence of tritium implied there could be other radioactive isotopes in the water as well. None of the tritium levels they measured on this occasion, exceeded those French health authorities have established as “safe”, but research in the past has found higher levels, especially in groundwater, rivers and streams.

That “acceptable” level is 100 Becquerels per liter, not quite as arbitrary as the shocking 10,000 Bq/L level set by the World Health Organization, in thrall to the nuclear power-promoting International Atomic Energy Agency through a 1959 agreement.

The cities affected included Paris and its suburbs, and other large population areas in the Loire and Vienne regions of France such Orléans, Tours and Nantes.

Unsurprisingly, the story spread like wildfire, especially across social media, causing alarm among residents in the communities cited — 268 in all.

But the police investigation in Paris was not of EDF, the country’s chief nuclear facility operator. It was to root out fear-mongering purveyors of “fake news” among the citizenry who, according to the French state, were unnecessarily spreading panic among the populace by claiming drinking water containing tritium is unsafe.

[…]

Tritium is radioactive hydrogen and is therefore assimilated by all living things as water. It has a half life of 12.3 years. It is produced in huge quantities in nuclear reactor cores, then released into the environment as a gas or in liquid discharges. Tritium cannot be filtered out of water and tritium released into the air can return in rainfall. All nuclear power plants release tritium, and nuclear reprocessing facilities — such as the one at La Hague on the French north coast — release even larger amounts.

These releases, including into rivers, streams and the sea, are regulated by authorities but, as CRIIRAD points out, at levels that are not so much safe as unavoidable, effectively granting nuclear installations “permission to pollute.”

“The liquid and atmospheric releases of tritium cause contamination of the air, water, the aquatic and terrestrial environment and the food chain,” wrote CRIIRAD in a statement put out after the tritiated drinking water news broke.

When rumors began to fly that drinking tap water had been banned, authorities quickly stepped in to “reassure” people that the levels of tritium in the water — already not actually safe according to CRIIRAD — were of no concern.

The criminality of nuclear plants across France releasing huge amounts of tritium into the environment was quickly turned on its head. Instead, in a sinister but not entirely unpredictable turn of events, given that France is a nuclear state, it would be ordinary citizens who would be committing a “crime” if they were found to be “publicizing, spreading and reproducing false information intended to cause public disorder,” according to an AFP article.

In reality, there was genuine cause for concern. ACRO had found levels of tritium in drinking water at 30 Bq/L on five occasions, then at 55 Bq/L and finally at 310 Bq/L in the Loire river.

It is.

[…]

Tritium is radioactive hydrogen and is therefore assimilated by all living things as water. It has a half life of 12.3 years. It is produced in huge quantities in nuclear reactor cores, then released into the environment as a gas or in liquid discharges. Tritium cannot be filtered out of water and tritium released into the air can return in rainfall. All nuclear power plants release tritium, and nuclear reprocessing facilities — such as the one at La Hague on the French north coast — release even larger amounts.

These releases, including into rivers, streams and the sea, are regulated by authorities but, as CRIIRAD points out, at levels that are not so much safe as unavoidable, effectively granting nuclear installations “permission to pollute.”

“The liquid and atmospheric releases of tritium cause contamination of the air, water, the aquatic and terrestrial environment and the food chain,” wrote CRIIRAD in a statement put out after the tritiated drinking water news broke.

When rumors began to fly that drinking tap water had been banned, authorities quickly stepped in to “reassure” people that the levels of tritium in the water — already not actually safe according to CRIIRAD — were of no concern.

The criminality of nuclear plants across France releasing huge amounts of tritium into the environment was quickly turned on its head. Instead, in a sinister but not entirely unpredictable turn of events, given that France is a nuclear state, it would be ordinary citizens who would be committing a “crime” if they were found to be “publicizing, spreading and reproducing false information intended to cause public disorder,” according to an AFP article.

In reality, there was genuine cause for concern. ACRO had found levels of tritium in drinking water at 30 Bq/L on five occasions, then at 55 Bq/L and finally at 310 Bq/L in the Loire river.

[…]

Posted in *English.

Tagged with , , .


0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.



Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.