Radioactive Berkeley: Pathway to Exposure


The public policy video Radioactive Berkeley: Pathway to Exposure was first premiered on the agenda of the Berkeley City Council in 1998. It featured a discussion of numerous members of the public regarding the exposure of children at the Lawrence Hall of Science, on the hillside in Berkeley, CA. The National Tritium Labeling Facility was finally closed several years later.

Radioactive Berkeley: Pathway to Exposure video presentation

Gene Bernardi:
The National Tritium Labeling Facility is located next to an eucalyptus grove on the west slope of Strawberry Canyon, next to the Lawrence Hall of Science, a children’s museum. Every year, tens of thousands of Bay area school children are exposed to the radioactive emissions from the stack of the National Tritium Labeling Facility at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories.

Hello, I am Gene Bernardi, co-chair of the Committee to Minimize Toxic Waste, a grandmother and a member of the Tritium Issues Workgroup. The Tritium Issues Workgroup was established almost two years ago to investigate the lab’s controversial tritium releases from the National Tritium Labeling Facility. I became involved because I live next to Strawberry Canyon where the National Tritium Labeling Facility is located, and I remained involved because I am concerned about our children and our children’s children. Radioactivity not only causes cancer, but it causes genetic mutations, and these can show up one or two generations later.

We are here at the Lawrence Hall of Science next to the National Tritium Labeling Facility so you can get a better idea of the lab’s radioactive emissions and the serious health risk they pose. Let’s begin by examining the question “Where do the radioactive emissions of Tritium go. We can do this by looking at the operations of the Tritium Labeling Facility.

Marion Fulk:
Hello, I am Marion Fulk, a retiree from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen. It is hard to handle, and it’s very hard to reclaim because it soluble and will diffuse through practically everything. It’s dangerous to children and unborn children. It does all the biological damage that gamma rays and x-rays do, but with greater efficiency. Tritium is released from the Tritium Labeling Facility, then it travels through the through the trunk and up the stack. It is then discharged into the environment as tritiated water and absorbed by the vegetation, soil, water, and wildlife.

Dale Nesbeitt:
I’am Dale Nesbitt. I worked here at Lawrence Berkeley Lab for some fourteen years, retired about five years ago. And much of that time, particularly the late 1980s, I spent the majority of my working hours right in front of me here at the machine shop. I always ate my lunch out here under the eucalyptus trees at noontime. There have been many accidental releases, as well as routine, at the tritium facility since its construction its construction in the early 1960s. Releases have been reduced in the last three years as operations were drastically cut. However, an accident almost two months ago revealed that the tritium lab was incinerating a large volume of its mixed radioactive waste.

We are here at the tritium lab site to specifically look at its air emissions because they represent the most serious pathway to exposure. As you can see, the tritium stack is in a grove of trees midway up the hill from the Lawrence Hall of Science and Tritium Labeling Facility. Simply put, the children’s museum is downwind from the stack and so, is in a direct line of exposure. A look at this tritium plume also verifies this fact. It is also suggests an exposure scenario that when the radioactive emissions are released, they concentrate on the hill, slowed by the trees, just below the Lawrence Hall of Science. When the wind blows, this radioactive cloud passes through the Lawrence Hall of Science area and into Blackberry Canyon and Creek.

This environmental data directly contradicts the parameters used by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in their CAP’88 dispersion model. And some other obvious misrepresentations are:
1. Wind speed and direction, that is, toward the Lawrence Hall of Science
2. Stack height
3. The stack emission rate
What is it really?

Dr. Leticia Menchaca
I pointed out that, perhaps, the reason we find higher tritium concentrations to the north and west of the tritium stack is because the wind predominately blows in that direction. In the air, tritiated vapor will be preferentially trapped towards the north and west of the tritium stack and deposited on the surfaces in this area. These trees do interact with the tritiated water in a way which they help take out of the soil, in the groundwater, and put it into the atmosphere as well as they (trees) help trap it from the atmosphere and put it into the soil.

Note: Dr Menchaca filed a grievance when LBNL did not renew her contract She was told that...
Her data and reports were “non existent”.
She couldn’t publish or talk about her work as a researcher at the lab.
Her recent reports were all shredded.

Bradley Angel
My name is Bradley Angel. I am the executive director of Green Action, and we are a Bay Area based organization working throughout the southwest United States on issues of health and the environment. When the United States Environmental Protection comes to Berkeley and assures concerned residents and assures concerned elected officials, that there is no threat, that emissions from the Lab are under control, we would encourage people to take a long look at that because recent experiences shows that the claims by US EPA and the assurances given to another community here in Alameda County were not true. The community was misled; the community was poisoned by emissions from an incinerator that the US EPA had stated had no emissions.

Dale Nesbitt:
The laboratory truly has nothing to hide if, as they claim, that there’s absolutely no danger from this facility, then they should welcome a scientifically qualified, outside organization, one that’s truly independent, to come and make a review of all the historic records and all the present procedures so that the public can understand what the dangers are presently, what they have been in the past.

It has to be truly an organization that has no financial ties or commitments to government. The EPA’s Superfund evaluation quandary does make it clear that a return to the past operating levels would once again create a severe environmental condition at the Lawrence Hall of Science and make it an undeniable Superfund site. We feel that the Tritium Labeling facility should be moved to a more suitable location.

Helen Caldicott:
Young people, and babies and children in particular, are ten to twenty times more sensitive to radiation than adults. They get it much more readily. And here these lovely young things, you know, going to the university, and they’re enveloped by tritium sometimes. They let out the other day nearly twenty-three curies. A curie is a huge amount of tritium. The EPA said the other day that it should be a Superfund site, but they wouldn’t make it a Superfund site because they weren’t sure it should be a Superfund site, but it should be a Superfund site. It’s all very contorted language.

According to the EPA Superfund re-evaluation, 43% of the ambient air samples taken inside the Lawrence Hall of Science in 1995 exceeded EPA Cancer Risk Screening Concentration for tritium. So the tritium is sucked into the Lawrence Hall of Science where not just hundreds, thousands of children are taken there all the time, you know, every year. This is criminal! These people should be put in jail.

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