THE GHOST IN THE FISHES
Why would strontium be found in 4 fish, and not found in 8 other fish? Why would a reputable lab find 7 times less (or more) strontium, than another reputable lab? Is there a conspiracy, with Doctor Strangelove secretly irradiating some fish in his underground lair, and then releasing them in the Hudson at Troy, to mislead us all, for political purposes? Are the strontium tests themselves unreliable as performed, and should we not take their results as "scientific proof" of anything?
To educate myself, I googled "Strontium test protocols" , and waded in, reading half a dozen DOE documents so dense, that 3 or 4 cups of coffee are definitely recommended for anybody else so inclined.One document is Sr-03-RC, Vol.1, HASL-300, 28th edition "Strontium 90 in Environmental Matrices".
This is DOE's own short description:
Strontium is separated from calcium, other fission products, and other natural radioactive elements.Fuming HNO3 (fuming nitric acid >86% pure) separations are used to remove the calcium and most of the other interfering ions.Radium, lead and barium are removed with BACRO4, (barium chromate).Traces of other fission products are scavenged with iron hydroxide adsorbent. The sample is isolated and Yttrium ingrowth is allowed to occur, 97% ingrowth taking place in 14 days. After ingrowth Yttrium/Strontium equilibrium has been attained, the yttrium 90 is precipitated as a hydroxide and then converted to an oxylate for counting on a low background gas proportional beta counter. Chemical yield is determined with a strontium 85 tracer by counting in a gamma well detector.
Got all that?
This being a Department of Energy test procedure, it is geared to gross amounts of strontium, in such places as the Hanford atom bomb plant in Washington. The procedure for testing soil states: "Weigh out enough soil to generate an activity at least 10 times background (ideally 100 times) into an appropriate container....."
In order to get a good test run, the technician is being advised to use enough sample, to have 100 times the background radiation, just to begin. No Hudson river fish ever had anywhere near this level, in fact by this warning alone, the test ought not to have been run. (background is the level a geiger counter reads, when it is nowhere near any radiation). As a matter of fact, by geiger counter alone, the Hudson fish had NO DETECTABLE ACTIVITY. (When frisked, the fish were clean).
So was there ever strontium in any fish to begin with?
The ground beneath Indian Point is not soil, not aggregate gravel, It is solid ancient rock, straight down to China, rock with no interstices, except from fracture cracks induced by the blasting to build Indian Point. The fracture cracks, not being geological in origin, do not go anywhere, but exist in a small circle around each blast location, So, rather than some "pool" existing, or some "groundwater" (as you might find in some midwestern area, like the oglala aquifer) there actually is no pool, and there is no groundwater (no aquifer-- All drinking water in the area is piped in from upstate reservoirs.)
What does sit beneath Indian Point is a solid rock mass, with microscopic fracture cracks of very short length, centered on the Indian Point excavation profile. Water from plant activities over the last 50 years has entered the fracture cracks, and now exists within tiny feathered spaces inside solid rock, kind of the way your 3 fingers exist in the holes in a bowling ball, but just imagine the solid part of the bowling ball being 1000 feet across, and 1000 feet deep, and imagine the finger holes shrunk down to a millionth of an inch in diameter. The trapped water is not going anywhere, is not free, and is not connected (as far as anyone knows) with any geological flow channel able to move it anywhere.THAT'S why it was able to collect, and be found. It's in a jar.
Looking globally at the 3 dimensional outline of the "jar" (the part of the bowling ball that's drilled out) you get the misnomered "plume" of some 350 feet, a non-plume because it is just a virtual object, an autocad outline of those drill samples where microscopic water is trapped within rock. Actually, the whole thing, plume, and non-plume are all solid rock.
"Cleaning the Rocks"
Right now Entergy, using the virtual "plume" as a drilling guide, is emptying the "plume" with suction shafts, and reverse pumping these shafts, to draw whatever is in the feathered cracks BACK UP to a treatment station, and to draw whatever is seeping down toward the feathered cracks OUT through the suction shafts. Meanwhile, at the top, in the old Con Edison fuel pool where the original leak happened in 1996, Entergy has set up a cleaning station to remove all radioactive stuff from the water by chemical absorption means, thus removing any potential future leaks, and when they are done, the entire fuel pool will be dried, hermetically sealed, emptied, epoxied, fitted with permanent sensors to note any recurrances, and retired, empty of any fuel, with the fuel going to dry casks, or Yucca mountain. Finito, strontium leak.
If and/or when Entergy leaves, this cleaning operation will cease. It is not mandated by law, and Entergy is doing it to be a good enough neighbor to be able to run their revenue making units a few more years for us....NRC has not ruled on these leak issues elsewhere, and is actually looking to Entergy to invent the new technological framework right here, in their proactive and environmentally helpful suction & cleanout routine. If NRC likes it, they may make all the other nuke plants do it too. If Entergy is politically prevented from finishing it, no nuke plant anywhere will be forced to do it, and NRC will probably drop it, and not return to it. So everybody better let their single environmental hero in this--Entergy-- do its job, or misguided activism will have had the effect of crapping up the environment permanently, around EVERY nuclear plant. So, that kinda covers the "strontium plume" issue.There actually IS no water plume. It's solid rock, with water trapped inside in micro-cracks.
Now on to the issue of maybe-there-is and maybe-there-isn't strontium in Hudson river fish. The world was blanketed in strontium from 1945 through 1995, when all the nuclear powers tested atom bombs above ground.Future archeologists will date the earth by its pre-strontium, and post strontium layers, just like the pre and post Santorini layers, or the 65 million year ago asteroid hit. It is everywhere, including in Andrew Spano's molars. If Mr. Spano was chopped up and ground to a mush, centrifuged to a paste, cleansed with 8 successive baths of nitric acid, re-centrifuged to a crystalline residue, which was then mixed with ion-free distilled water, boiled for 8 hours, put through a barium chromate reduction, re-centrifuged, dried, and then put through a set of iron hydroxide scavenging runs, and cooked onto the surface of a special stainless steel disk, which was then heat-dried for 2 days, before being isolated in a sealed flask for a month, and then unsealed, and run through a geiger counter looking for a tell tale 20,000 decays per minute beta particle profile, specific to Yttrium, and those Yttrium radiations extrapolated backwards by a very nebulous calculus computation , inferring the PREVIOUS presence of Strontium, from the current presence of its daughter product Yttrium 90, then, depending on whether the lab tech had cleansed and calibrated every solution correctly, run every reaction exactly the right time, not contaminated any step of the 238 steps, and had then computed the back-track correctly, we would get EITHER just background levels OR a level just a wee bit above background. Taking into account the fact that bone & tooth COLLECT strontium, concentrating it by about 5.7 times over background, it means that any ground-up-tooth reading near or just above background actually implies an environmental level BELOW background (by a factor of 5.7), Knowing that any detection of Strontium is by inference, by circumstantial evidence only, and that the minimum detectable level is not friendly to the tester, we now have an explanation of why different labs get different readings. Without the advised "100 times background" sample size, mentioned above, the test is so nebulous, so easy to do "wrong", and so tied to background, that it can't be believed, unless you set up a program of constant fish collection, and constant testing, to generate a body of samples that would screen out individually unsatisfactory test runs..... AND you would need to compare this to a CONTROL COHORT , of "definitely-non-strontium" fish, and run each one of those tests at the same time as each of the "strontium-fish" tests, doing it under the typical double blind protocol, in order to determine where MDL lies (Minimum Detectable Level). Our challenge as a scientific community is to find a control cohort anywhere on the planet. There just might not BE one....Maybe cave fish from deep underground somewhere (provided no strontium rain ever penetrated their cave). The test protocols are tough, making up about a 160 page document altogether.. One surprising and dismaying thing I found was the test procedure for finding strontium in Bikini Atoll fish, was double the length of the test used for finding strontium in freshwater fish. the "Marine Protocol" is much longer and more rigorous, because the dissolved residual actinides in the high mineral content of seawater causes false positives, and must be religiously screened out, by an additional 175 steps not done in the non-marine protocol. Once a person has read up on the marine protocol the fact will hit you, that THE HUDSON RIVER IS BRACKISH! Did the test lab use the Marine Protocol, or the freshwater protocol? Since the Hudson salt line moves up and down river with the tides and the rains, unless a separate "Semi-Marine-Protocol" were devised (AND CORRECTLY APPLIED), a large error trap, one might even say a GAPING ERROR TRAP yawns beneath a single test run, on a much-too-small sample of 12 Hudson fish, done only once and with no control cohort , and a deceptive well-nigh impossible to determine MDL level, depending on just how salty each fish was.
Conclusion? Almost all of these tests so far have been reading technician errors, and mistaken MDL computations, and reporting them out as the possible existence of non-existent strontium. THAT'S why the levels vary, and THAT'S why its supposedly in some fish but not in others. We are reading the technician's inability to validly run the test, on such tiny non-radioactive samples.