Safety in Tritium Handling Technology

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The infrastructure includes:. Calorimetry of Tritium in the TLK. The TLK has four different ways for the accounting of tritium.

The thermal power of tritium radioactive decay is 0. Before a delivery is accepted at TLK the amount of tritium is measured calorimetrically and correlated with the information provided by the supplier, noting the experimental accuracy and radioactive decay in transit.

Only after verification is the tritium fed into the transfer system TTS and subsequent experiments. The TTS verifies the received amount of tritium with a volumetric measurement and as the case may be another calorimetric determination of the emptied transport vessel. Every transfer of tritium within the TLK requires a measurement and record of the amount of tritium transferred.

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A not-for-profit organization, IEEE is the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Use of this web site signifies your agreement to the terms and conditions. Personal Sign In. For IEEE to continue sending you helpful information on our products and services, please consent to our updated Privacy Policy. Tritium occurs naturally due to cosmic rays interacting with atmospheric gases. In the most important reaction for natural production, a fast neutron which must have energy greater than 4.

This is due to a fixed production rate and losses proportional to the inventory. Tritium for American nuclear weapons was produced in special heavy water reactors at the Savannah River Site until their closures in The production of tritium was resumed with irradiation of rods containing lithium replacing the usual control rods containing boron , cadmium , or hafnium , at the reactors of the commercial Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station from — followed by extraction of tritium from the rods at the new Tritium Extraction Facility at the Savannah River Site beginning in November Tritium has an atomic mass of 3.

Diatomic tritium T 2 or 3 H 2 is a gas at standard temperature and pressure. Combined with oxygen , it forms a liquid called tritiated water T 2 O. Tritium's specific activity is 9, curies per gram 3.

Safety in Tritium Handling Technology

Tritium figures prominently in studies of nuclear fusion because of its favorable reaction cross section and the large amount of energy All atomic nuclei contain protons as their only electrically charged particles. They therefore repel one another because like charges repel. However, if the atoms have a high enough temperature and pressure for example, in the core of the Sun , then their random motions can overcome such electrical repulsion called the Coulomb force , and they can come close enough for the strong nuclear force to take effect, fusing them into heavier atoms.

The tritium nucleus, containing one proton and two neutrons, [7] has the same charge as the nucleus of ordinary hydrogen, and it experiences the same electrostatic repulsive force when brought close to another atomic nucleus. However, the neutrons in the tritium nucleus increase the attractive strong nuclear force when brought close enough to another atomic nucleus.

As a result, tritium can more easily fuse with other light atoms, compared with the ability of ordinary hydrogen to do so.

Safety in Tritium Handling Technology

The same is true, albeit to a lesser extent, of deuterium. This is why brown dwarfs so-called failed stars cannot utilize ordinary hydrogen, but they do fuse the small minority of deuterium nuclei. Like the other isotopes of hydrogen , tritium is difficult to confine. Rubber, plastic, and some kinds of steel are all somewhat permeable. This has raised concerns that if tritium were used in large quantities, in particular for fusion reactors , it may contribute to radioactive contamination , although its short half-life should prevent significant long-term accumulation in the atmosphere.

The high levels of atmospheric nuclear weapons testing that took place prior to the enactment of the Partial Test Ban Treaty proved to be unexpectedly useful to oceanographers. The high levels of tritium oxide introduced into upper layers of the oceans have been used in the years since then to measure the rate of mixing of the upper layers of the oceans with their lower levels. Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen, which allows it to readily bind to hydroxyl radicals , forming tritiated water H T O , and to carbon atoms.

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Since tritium is a low energy beta emitter , it is not dangerous externally its beta particles are unable to penetrate the skin , [20] but it can be a radiation hazard when inhaled, ingested via food or water, or absorbed through the skin. Studies on the biological half life of occupational radiation workers for free water tritium in the coastal region of Karnataka, India, show that the biological half life in the winter season is twice that of the summer season. Tritium has leaked from 48 of 65 nuclear sites in the US. In one case, leaking water contained 7.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission states that in normal operation in , 56 pressurized water reactors released 40, curies 1. According to the U. Environmental Protection Agency , self-illuminating exit signs improperly disposed in municipal landfills have been recently found out to contaminate waterways. The legal limits for tritium in drinking water vary from country to country. Some figures are given below:. The American limit is calculated to yield a dose of 4.

The beta particles emitted by the radioactive decay of small amounts of tritium cause chemicals called phosphors to glow. This radioluminescence is used in self-powered lighting devices called betalights , which are used for night illumination of firearm sights, watches , exit signs , map lights, navigational compasses such as current-use M U. Tritium has replaced radioluminescent paint containing radium in this application, which can cause bone cancer and has been banned in most countries for decades. Tritium is an important component in nuclear weapons. It is used to enhance the efficiency and yield of fission bombs and the fission stages of hydrogen bombs in a process known as " boosting " as well as in external neutron initiators for such weapons.

These are devices incorporated in nuclear weapons which produce a pulse of neutrons when the bomb is detonated to initiate the fission reaction in the fissionable core pit of the bomb, after it is compressed to a critical mass by explosives.

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High-energy fusion neutrons from the resulting fusion radiate in all directions. Some of these strike plutonium or uranium nuclei in the primary's pit, initiating nuclear chain reaction. The quantity of neutrons produced is large in absolute numbers, allowing the pit to quickly achieve neutron levels that would otherwise need many more generations of chain reaction, though still small compared to the total number of nuclei in the pit.

Before detonation, a few grams of tritium-deuterium gas are injected into the hollow " pit " of fissile plutonium or uranium. The early stages of the fission chain reaction supply enough heat and compression to start deuterium-tritium fusion, then both fission and fusion proceed in parallel, the fission assisting the fusion by continuing heating and compression, and the fusion assisting the fission with highly energetic As the fission fuel depletes and also explodes outward, it falls below the density needed to stay critical by itself, but the fusion neutrons make the fission process progress faster and continue longer than it would without boosting.

Tritium Recovery at Fusion Facility Approach for Safe Tritium Handling in ITER

Increased yield comes overwhelmingly from the increase in fission. The energy released by the fusion itself is much smaller because the amount of fusion fuel is so much smaller. The effects of boosting include:. The tritium in a warhead is continually undergoing radioactive decay, hence becoming unavailable for fusion. Furthermore, its decay product , helium-3, absorbs neutrons if exposed to the ones emitted by nuclear fission. This potentially offsets or reverses the intended effect of the tritium, which was to generate many free neutrons, if too much helium-3 has accumulated from the decay of tritium.

Therefore, it is necessary to replenish tritium in boosted bombs periodically. One mole of deuterium-tritium gas would contain about 3. Since tritium undergoes radioactive decay, and is also difficult to confine physically, the much larger secondary charge of heavy hydrogen isotopes needed in a true hydrogen bomb uses solid lithium deuteride as its source of deuterium and tritium, producing the tritium in situ during secondary ignition.

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  5. The neutrons released from the fission of the sparkplug split lithium-6 into tritium and helium-4, while lithium-7 is split into helium-4, tritium, and one neutron. Therefore, the fusion stage breeds its own tritium as the device detonates. In the extreme heat and pressure of the explosion, some of the tritium is then forced into fusion with deuterium, and that reaction releases even more neutrons. Since this fusion process requires an extremely high temperature for ignition, and it produces fewer and less energetic neutrons only fission, deuterium-tritium fusion, and 7 3 Li splitting are net neutron producers , lithium deuteride is not used in boosted bombs, but rather for multi-stage hydrogen bombs.

    Tritium is an important fuel for controlled nuclear fusion in both magnetic confinement and inertial confinement fusion reactor designs.