Radiation in Water – A Real Risk

Radiation in Water – A Real Risk

Radiation in Water – A Real Risk

The question when introducing US Nuclear Corp’s real-time continuous water monitors to municipal water utilities is, ‘why do we need an instrument like this?  We don’t have radiation in our drinking water or wastewater.’

Our question is ‘how do you know if you don’t monitor the water’. Typical monitoring is 4 times a year per EPA’s Clean Water Act. A water sample is pulled and sent to a lab for testing. Not a very timely or cost-effective method.

Naturally, occurring radiation is continuously leaking into our groundwater. Whether water supplies are from surface water, rivers, reservoirs, and lakes, or groundwater, the risk of radiation contamination, either deliberately or by accident, and the subsequent contamination of the population and of the infrastructure is very real today and increases as our technology advances.

And what about Wastewater? With radioactive material being used so prolifically in today’s manufacturing, products, and health practices the inadvertent or deliberate improper disposal of waste effluent can easily contaminate our water facilities. Proper disposal of radioactive waste from manufacturing the incredibly diverse products, now in everyday use, is expensive and if cost-saving corners are risked in disposal, water is the first to be contaminated.

The list below is just a portion of the products produced and utilized today that involve radioactive components:

Rare earth oxides (REOs), minerals, and Rare earth elements (REEs) contain naturally occurring radiation and are used in diverse technologies including mobile phones, hard drives, fiber optic cables, surgical lasers, cruise missiles, catalytic converters, hybrid fuel cells, solar panels, and wind turbine magnets. The process of extracting these elements for the manufacture of these products creates significant quantities of radioactive waste.

Tritium is created and used in several industries: bombs/weapons, gunsights, watches, tracer material, automobile headlights, analytical chemistry, and as a tritiated water tracer to study sewage and liquid waste.

Nuclear medicine is now common in most hospitals and imaging centers. Creating the radioactive elements for nuclear medicine, diagnostics and treatment, and radio imaging is achieved in radiopharmacy, nuclear laboratories, cyclotrons, and nuclear reactor generators.

Phosphate-based fertilizer production uses acid and water creating waste among which is radioactive waste material. There is a caution against using the waste in agriculture because radioactive nuclides might accumulate in the environment. The result is towers of accumulated waste at these fertilizer production facilities that aerate radiation into the atmosphere as they dry out or seep into the water table over time.

Oil and gas production creates radioactive waste as a result of naturally occurring radionuclides called NORM. The current extraction practices, such as fracking, are now generating what is termed Technologically Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (TENORM). The drilling process typically uses a water blend of chemicals, particularly in fracking, and as such generates vast quantities of contaminated water. Underground injection of this contaminated water is a typical disposal practice. This technique of disposal poses a significant risk to aquifers and wells.

Nucleonic gauges for measurement purposes are used in a diverse variety of industries including steel and coal. Instruments to perform non-destructive testing utilize radioactive elements. The radionuclide Zinc-65 is used to predict the heavy metal component behavior in mining wastewater.

National laboratories and university laboratories typically utilize radionuclides in their research.

Common items utilizing or produced with radioactive elements include smoke detectors, irradiated gemstones, improved resistance in wire and cable, vulcanizing rubber for tires and other uses, food irradiation, in the production of tampons, disposable diapers, and other absorbable materials, and air freshener elements. Radioactive tracers are used in a wide variety of industries to determine wear and tear on machinery, engines, and blast furnace linings. Camera light sensors and plasma displays, beta-voltaic batteries also utilize radioactive elements in their production and use.

As you can see by this comprehensive, yet far from complete, list of manufacturing and products utilizing radioactive elements the risk of contamination in our water is great. Real-time continuous water monitoring for radiation is really the only way to know if contamination has occurred in our water.

With two models to determine radiation contamination in water the opportunity to provide critical infrastructure security is available. Use them in tandem at the beginning of the water filtration process and at the end prior to the release of water into the outflow or just at the intake to determine the quality of water entering the treatment process.

  • Utilizing the RAWA-GP at the water intake pipe of the water filtration system provides automatic and continuous monitoring of water 24/7 for any BETA/GAMMA radioactive contamination. Monitor for contamination in silt and particulates of ground or surface RAW WATER.
  • Installing the NexGen-SSS at the end of the water treatment process provides vital information on the efficiency of the treatment system for BETA/GAMMA radioactive contamination.