(Darn had a really cool animated cat gif. that just wouldn't work here. Need to bone up on my HTML skills.)
I've never lied to you before have I?
A nuclear reactor at a northern Illinois plant shut down Monday after losing power, and steam was being vented to reduce pressure, according to officials from Exelon Nuclear and federal regulators.
This is radioactive steam they are releasing into the air folks but don't worry it won't harm you. Much. Basic nasty being released along with some steam is tritium.
Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen, which allows it to readily bind to hydroxyl radicals, forming tritiated water (HTO), and to carbon atoms. Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter, it is not dangerous externally (its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin), but it is a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin. HTO has a short biological half-life in the human body of 7 to 14 days, which both reduces the total effects of single-incident ingestion and precludes long-term bioaccumulation of HTO from the environment.
I was once asked to dispose of one of those new exit signs powered by tritium. After a call to the home office I was told they'd have to find another method because our company could not handle it. Even though this is a very low level of radiation we did not have the correct certifications to remove or transport the sign. You may think that silly but when dealing with hazardous wastes of any type you have to follow the letter of the law no exceptions.
That brings to mind the changes in the laws on asbestos roofing material. Here's the way that works. Roofing shingles and paper containing asbestos must be removed using proper protective equipment full moon suit, wet methods and all. However once that material hits the ground it magically turns into general construction debris where it can be thrown into a dumpster. Ah but there a fly in the legal ointment here because once it makes it way to the land fill it magically turns back into an asbestos containing material because the land fill doesn't want any legal liabilities. So we normally treat it as asbestos containing for the entire process bagging it in double bags or double wrapping it in 6 mil plastic with the proper labels and manifest.
So knowing what I do about hazardous materials and the fact that it's almost impossible to determine the exact level of a release at any given distance (that's why when they evacuate an area it usually at least 1/2 mile for any gas) I'd be almost certain they're feeding these people a line of BS. When dealing with a gas leak you want to be on the upwind side and where that material lands depends on wind direction and speed.