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Report Says Nuclear Plants Are Poisoning Our Water

Radioactive pollution double a decade ago, says Sierra Club

by Mike De Souza

Nuclear facilities and power plants are contaminating local Canadian food and water with radioactive waste that increases risks of cancer and birth defects, says a new report to be released today.

The report, Tritium on Tap, produced by the Sierra Club of Canada, warned that radioactive emissions from various nuclear plants across the country have more than doubled over the past decade. The figures were based on statistics compiled by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission which measured pollution coming from the plants.

Although Canadian guidelines have suggested that the existing levels of tritium in the water are safe, the report cites recent peer-reviewed studies, including a recent review by the UK's Committee Examining Radiation Risks of Internal Emitters, that suggest the opposite.

"Once in our body, tritium enters our DNA, fat, proteins and carbohydrates -- and that is where it does its damage from close range," said the Sierra Club report. "It is a carcinogen and causes birth defects."

The report noted that other jurisdictions such as the European Union and California have drinking water guidelines for tritium that are hundreds of times stronger than Canada's guidelines. A recent report by the Ontario Drinking Water Advisory Council, released in May, has also suggested more stringent drinking water standards to restrict tritium.

With some radioactive pollution getting into the ground and locally-produced food, Mike Buckthought, who wrote the Sierra Club report, said the best solution is to eliminate pollution from nuclear reactors by promoting more renewable forms of energy.

"We need to phase out nuclear power and look for safer alternatives such as wind and solar energy," said Buckthought, who is the national climate change campaigner for Sierra Club.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited has confirmed a "controlled release" of tritium into the Ottawa River from December 2008 to February 2009 but said this leak did not pose any risk to the environment because it respected the existing regulations.

However, the Sierra Club said tests of the water done by a lab at the University of Waterloo revealed tritium levels that were five times higher than in water at other locations without any nearby nuclear plants.

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