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Concentrating Low-Level Tritiated Water Through Isotope Exchange

Betty S. Jorgensen, Robert C. Dye, Lawrence R. Pratt, Maria A. Gomez, Julie E. Meadows

Fusion Science and Technology

Volume 37 / Number 2 / March 2000 / Pages 124-130


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Trapping of tritium on polymers with specific functional groups was investigated as a means of treating waste streams containing low levels of tritium. Chemical exchange of tritium with hydrogen on the functional group was used as the mechanism for trapping. The polymers tested include Aurorez polybenzimidazole resin beads, Chelex 100 resin beads, Duolite GT-73, microcrystalline cellulose, and polyethylenimine. The tests were performed under simulated operating conditions on water obtained from the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Tritiated water from the Tritium Systems Test Assembly is discharged to this plant. Polyethylenimine is a water-soluble polymer that was tested using a stirred membrane cell with an ultrafiltration membrane. All of the polymers except polyethylenimine took up tritium from the water. Polybenzimidazole demonstrated the highest tritium uptake. The results are explained on the basis of the type of functional group, hydrogen bonding, and rigidity of the molecular structure of the polymer. The theoretical calculations indicate that significant isotope discrimination requires high-frequency modes with hydrogen bonding contribution and support the experimental findings. Modeling suggested trends that may lead to structures that are more efficient in trapping tritium.

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