Let's Talk Tritium

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Let's Talk Tritium is now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions.

Have you heard of tritium? Tritium is a rare isotope of hydrogen, and the only radioactive form of this widespread natural element. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates tritium releases into the environment to protect you and your community and wants to hear from you.

Worried about exposure to tritium?

Wondering about potential uses of tritium?

Send the CNSC your questions and its experts will answer them here.


Background on tritium

Cosmic rays produce tritium when they interact with gases in the upper atmosphere. In Canada, tritium is a by-product created by nuclear reactors and tritium processing facilities.

Tritium has several industrial uses, including glow-in-the-dark lighting, like in exit signs or airport runway lights, and as a biomedical tracer in research.

CNSC experts study the environmental behaviour and health effects of tritium in collaboration with national and international partners.

The CNSC recently updated its tritium resources to provide more information on this important isotope.

Let's Talk Tritium is now closed. Thank you to everyone who submitted questions.

Have you heard of tritium? Tritium is a rare isotope of hydrogen, and the only radioactive form of this widespread natural element. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates tritium releases into the environment to protect you and your community and wants to hear from you.

Worried about exposure to tritium?

Wondering about potential uses of tritium?

Send the CNSC your questions and its experts will answer them here.


Background on tritium

Cosmic rays produce tritium when they interact with gases in the upper atmosphere. In Canada, tritium is a by-product created by nuclear reactors and tritium processing facilities.

Tritium has several industrial uses, including glow-in-the-dark lighting, like in exit signs or airport runway lights, and as a biomedical tracer in research.

CNSC experts study the environmental behaviour and health effects of tritium in collaboration with national and international partners.

The CNSC recently updated its tritium resources to provide more information on this important isotope.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

Use the form below to ask your question, or send your question to consultation@cnsc-ccsn.gc.ca. While your question will be posted here, your name won’t be shown, in accordance with the CNSC’s privacy policy.


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  • How many ITC's would have to fail in the DTRF vault to become a concern to the public? Is this public information? Where can we retrieve topological information on the spread of tritium in groundwater/atmosphere in such an event?

    asked 7 days ago

    The tritium in the Immobilized Tritium Containers (ITCs) is bonded to titanium to form titanium hydride, which is solid, water insoluble and chemically stable. Over time, the tritium in the ITCs decays to Helium-3 (He-3), which is a gas, and begins to pressurize the ITC. While the ITCs are designed to accommodate this pressurization, if an ITC were to fail, the tritium would remain as solid titanium hydride; only the He-3 would escape, which is non-radioactive and chemically inert. The (Darlington) Tritium Removal Facility (TRF) vault is designed to protect the ITCs from external threats, such as an accident in any other part of the TRF. 

     As part of obtaining the initial licence to operate the TRF, OPG (Ontario Power Generation, Ontario Hydro at the time) was required to conduct a safety analysis to demonstrate that the facility could be operated safely and that any accidents would not exceed public exposure limits set by the CNSC (Atomic Energy Control Board at the time). CNSC staff confirmed that the safety analysis adequately demonstrated this requirement. Because the safety analysis contains detailed design information, which is the licensee’s intellectual property, it is not publicly available. 

  • How much tritium is released by nuclear plants in Canada annually?

    MCB asked 13 days ago

    In 2020, Canada’s nuclear power plants released a total of 3.7 x 1015 Bq (~3,710 terabequerels) of tritium. The table below provides the data for each nuclear power plant, subdivided into releases to air and water.

    2020 Data:

    Nuclear Power Plant

    Releases of tritium to air (Bq)

    Releases of tritium to water (Bq)

    Gentilly-2

    8.11E+13

    1.97E+13

    Point Lepreau Generating Station

    2.87E+14

    4.61E+14

    Bruce Power - A

    3.40E+14

    2.50E+14

    Bruce Power - B

    3.10E+14

    5.70E+14

    Darlington Nuclear

    1.90E+14

    1.20E+14

    Pickering Nuclear - A & B

    6.50E+14

    4.30E+14

    Total

    1.86E+15

    1.85E+15

     

    This information, in addition to other data on radioactive releases, can be found on the Government of Canada’s “Open Government” portal at: Radionuclide Release Datasets - Open Government Portal.

    More information is available here: : Tritium in drinking water - Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

  • How much Helium-3 would Canada have for medical diagnostics and industrial applications, if it weren't for decay of the tritium produced & captured by our nuclear power plants? Thnx

    Jaro asked 13 days ago

    Tritium that decays to He-3 within the systems of operating Canadian nuclear power plants is not captured. Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) license to operate the Darlington nuclear power plant includes operation of the on-site Tritium Removal Facility (TRF). This facility removes tritium from the heavy water used in Ontario’s nuclear power plants, and stores this tritium on-site in cylinders called Immobilization Tritium Containers (ITCs). As this tritium decays, the He-3 is retained in the ITCs, and OPG is currently developing a system to harvest this He-3 for sale. The He-3 currently stored at the Darlington TRF is believed to be the largest store of He-3 in the world. However, the amount of Helium-3 (He-3) that can be harvested from this process is outside the scope of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s responsibilities.

    Beyond Darlington’s TRF, no other licensee is developing a process to harvest He-3. 

  • Has tritium ever injured or killed anyone?

    Sideen Dan asked 13 days ago

    Tritium has not killed or injured anyone in Canada. The CNSC has a robust licensing and compliance program that ensures tritium releases from nuclear facilities remain as low as reasonably achievable (ALARA) and do not exceed release limits, that are derived in line with international guidelines and standards. In 2007, CNSC led several research initiatives as part of the Tritium Studies Project, which have helped shape Canadian regulatory oversight of tritium processing and tritium releases. As Canada's nuclear regulator, we also impose dose limits to nuclear energy workers and members of the public, which further ensure that the environment and the health and safety of persons remains protected from tritium.

  • What is the level of Tritium that leaves the power plant on the materials that are laundered off site? Is that Tritium captured or will jt be dispersed from that laundry facility.

    Adam asked 13 days ago

    The levels of tritium on materials that are taken off site from nuclear power plants is below detectable limits, essentially none.