CHICAGO — The trace amount of radioactive tritium released in steam to cool a reactor during a shutdown at an Illinois nuclear plant was not enough to present a danger to the public, according to the first estimates by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Preliminary calculations indicate that the radiation dose from Monday's release at the Byron Generating Station was less than 0.001 (one one-thousandth) percent of the commission's annual dose limit of 100 millirems. That amount is thought to be safe to workers and the public, agency spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said. "That is a very, very, very small amount," Mitlyng said, much less than the dose from a dental X-ray (0.5 millirem) or a smoke detector (0.008 millirem). Exposure to radiation increases a person's lifetime risk of cancer, so minimizing exposure is a good idea. Final data on the tritium release will be available to the public after the commission conducts a special investigation into how some equipment responded to the outage, Mitlyng said.
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