weather icon Clear

Tritium levels remain undetectable, Nye County sampling program shows

For the sixth year running, tritium sampling performed by Nye County has shown that there are no detectable levels of the radioactive isotope in the groundwater downgradiant of the Nevada National Security Site, formerly known as the Nevada Test Site.

“2020 was the sixth year under the seven-year grant and Nye County sampled 18 wells and two springs. Samples were from the same general area as in previous years… in the vicinity of Beatty and Amargosa,” Nye County Nuclear Waste Repository Office Geoscientist John Klenke reported, referring to sampling performed from 2015, when the program was initiated in Nye County, to 2019. The grant funding is provided by U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Management Office.

All of the wells and springs sampled are located in the path flow of groundwater coming from the former nuclear test site, where decades of nuclear weapons testing was performed. As a result of this testing, both the public and government officials had harbored concerns about the possibility of radioactive materials making their way to communities and threatening public health and safety. As such, the Nye County Tritium Sampling and Monitoring Program, better known as TSaMP, is one method being utilized to ensure that the groundwater is still safe.

Klenke detailed that the 2020 samples were pulled between October 20 and December 2 of last year, with 10 of what are referred to as ‘core wells’, which are locations tested each year, sampled. Of the 10 core wells, nine are actual wells while one is a spring. In addition, another 10 new locations, including nine wells and one spring, were also sampled.

“Samples were taken from three Nye County Early Warning Drilling Program wells, three Nye County Ground Water Evaluation wells and three other Nye County wells, two U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Field Office wells, found community wells, three private wells and two springs,” Klenke explained. “Three locations previously sampled in 2016, Colson Pond/Spring, Crystal Park Well and Crystal Fire Department, were resampled in 2020 to confirm that by using the unenriched method, tritium levels have remained undetectable at these locations.”

According to the report provided by Klenke, each of the samples from 2020 were shown to have tritium levels of below 292 or 296 pico curies per liter. The samples were analyzed in the standard fashion, which is referred to as “unenriched”. The company performing that analysis was Radiation Safety Engendering Inc., out of Chandler, Arizona. Klenke noted that for quality assurance, there were four duplicate samples and three blank samples submitted along with the regular samples.

Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen and is one of the most abundant radionuclides generated through underground nuclear testing. On top of this, tritium is also highly mobile, as it becomes a constituent of water molecules, and this is why this particular isotope is the focus of the monitoring program.

It acts as something of an early warning system for scientists studying the results of the fallout from America’s legacy of nuclear testing. If tritium were ever to be detected in the groundwater, it would indicate to officials that other, more potentially hazardous radioactive materials could be making their way through the groundwater as well. When sampling consistently shows no detectable levels of tritium, this reassures scientists and the public that those other dangerous chemicals are not contaminating the water they use for their daily lives.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Birth and death: Unvaccinated mom dies after child is born

“She tried so hard to have that baby, and she never even knew it was born. Never got to hold her,” Vena Foster said about her sister, Kimmie Pavone, who was 35.

Nye County redistricting committee members sought

The COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across America early last year and in its wake came a host of changes but what was then termed “the novel coronavirus” was not the only major event in 2020 that presaged a bevy of change for the country.

Remote Area Medical set for next weekend in Pahrump

Remote Area Medical will make its sixth return trip to the Pahrump Valley next weekend and all those in the local community and surrounding areas who may be in need of medical services they cannot afford, whether they have insurance or not, are encouraged to mark their calendars and head out for the free medical clinic event.

Pahrump Rotary Club’s Cash Extravaganza rakes in over $19K

One very lucky Pahrump resident is several thousand dollars richer following the Rotary Club of Pahrump Valley’s Annual Cash Extravaganza, with well-known local Sherry Starbuck taking home the incredible grand prize of $10,000.

Two are arrested at Desert View Hospital on the same day

Nye County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to two separate incidents at Desert View Hospital on the same day that resulted in the arrests of two men.

Sen. Cortez Masto introduces natural disaster legislation

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) is receiving bipartisan support for legislation to provide relief for impacted taxpayers in states that have issued state-level disaster declarations.

Marla Quercia crowned Ms. Senior Golden Years

If there is one phrase that can sum up the incredible show at the 2021 Ms. Senior Golden Years USA Pageant, it is undoubtedly “C’est Magnifique!”

Halloween Costume Drive now underway for Pahrump youngsters

Life’s many challenges can be a source of intense stress but also a source of incredible inspiration and for one local resident, her own personal struggles in recent months have been just that, both stressful and inspiring.

New pharmacy arrives in the valley this month

Local residents who rely on chain pharmacies for their medications now have an alternative choice.