Another way to bury the lead: Refer to cobalt and tritium as chemicals in the headline

A horribly misleading headline accompanied KFVS-TV’s online story yesterday about the Callaway nuclear power plant:

Elevated chemicals found in water near reactor

Because of the use of the term chemicals in the headline, I assumed that the story would deal with a spill of one of the hundreds of non-radioactive chemicals that are in routine use at a nuclear power plant, ranging from hyrdaulic fluid to strong acids. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Here’s the first paragraph, which continues the use of the generic term chemicals:The owner of Missouri’s only commercial nuclear reactor is reporting elevated chemical levels near its Callaway County plant.

The second paragraph finally gets down to specifics:

Ameren Missouri has told the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission that water samples from a new groundwater monitoring well at its Callaway plant show levels of radioactive tritium and Cobalt-60 higher than those found in drinking water.

While it may be technically true that cobalt and tritium are chemicals, it is less specific than it could be. For example, if you were told that the soil beneath your house had an abnormal amount of metal in it, you would be less concerned than if you were told that the metal is plutonium. Yes, in a narrow sense, plutonium is a metal, in much the same way that KFVS is technically a news organization.

Here’s the headline to the same story as reported by KMOX radio in St. Louis:

Radioactive Tritium, Cobalt 60 Found in Monitoring Well Near Callaway Nuclear Reactor

The KMOX headline is specific, not only in terms of what was found but where it was found.

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About Robert Singleton

By day, I work for a call center. In my spare time, I try to save my hometown (and planet) from a nearly constant onslaught of greedheads, lunatics and land developers. I live in a fictional town called Austin, Texas, where I go to way too many meetings.
This entry was posted in Callaway, Cobalt, Radiation leak, tritium and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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