Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 54 / Number 1 / July 2008 / Pages 209-214
Technical Paper / Waste Handling
Recent increased interest from regulators and the public has led more organizations to consider the environmental impact and safety considerations of tritium handling. Examples include the significance of the tritium isotope separation system on ITER licensing, remediation of ground water from power utilities and government facilities and concerns of high tritium concentrations within operational CANDU reactors.
GE Healthcare, formerly Amersham plc, has been producing tritium-labelled chemicals since the late 1940s. GE's manufacturing site located near Cardiff, UK has installed a tritium waste treatment and enrichment facility to radically reduce tritium discharges to the environment. This facility employs a continuous processing plant that recovers tritium from a complex mixture of tritiated organic and aqueous waste compounds. Two isotope separation techniques are used to achieve a final pure tritium product, which is used in the manufacturing of labelled compounds.
Building upon this experience, together with Special Separations Applications Inc. (SSAI), GE has developed a large-scale diffusion-based isotope separation process as an alternative to conventional cryogenic distillation. Having a tritium inventory an order of magnitude lower than conventional cryogenic distillation, this process is attractive for heavy water detritiation, applicable to single and multi-unit CANDU reactors and research reactors as well as fusion applications. Additionally, the new process has advantages of being cryogen-free, less complex, simple to operate and having improved conventional and radiological safety.