The paper describes some of the tritium management activities undertaken by AEA Technology at its Winfrith site in Dorset, England. These form part of a wide-ranging commercial service that provides UK industry with a responsible means of managing tritiated materials.
A wide variety of different tritium containing materials is used by industry, or is generated as a by-product of other activities. Some of the main waste management challenges that these materials present are identified and some of the materials are described in more detail. Tritium contamination can take a variety of forms and some of these are briefly described. Two key methods used for decontaminating tritium containing waste, aqueous washing and heat treatment, are discussed.
AEA Technology’s largest tritium management project involves the recovery of around 3,000 TBq of tritium from some 2,000,000 luminous phone dials. This project is described in more detail. The process that has been developed first requires that the tritium-containing source be removed from the surrounding device. Once separated, the source is cleaned and prepared for tritium recovery. The tritium, in diluted form, is recovered form the source by heating to temperatures of 1200°C. The mixture of hydrogen isotopes is separated from other gases present and then passed through an enrichment cycle to raise the tritium concentration to around 99.4%, a concentration suitable for commercial reuse.