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Experimental Investigation of Buried Tritium in Plant and Animal Tissues

S. B. Kim, W. J. G. Workman, P. A. Davis

Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 54 / Number 1 / Pages 257-260

July 2008


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Buried exchangeable tritium appears as part of organically bound tritium (OBT) in the traditional experimental determination of OBT. Since buried tritium quickly exchanges with hydrogen atoms in the body following ingestion, assuming that it is part of OBT rather than part of tritiated water (HTO) could result in a significant overestimate of the ingestion dose. This paper documents an experimental investigation into the existence, amount and significance of buried tritium in plant and fish samples. OBT concentrations in the samples were determined in the traditional way and also following denaturing with five chemical solutions that break down large molecules and expose buried tritium to exchange with free hydrogen atoms. A comparison of the OBT concentrations before and after denaturing, together with the concentration of HTO in the supernatant obtained after denaturing, suggests that buried OBT may exist but makes up less than 5% of the OBT concentration in plants and at most 20% of the OBT concentration in fish. The effects of rinse time and rinse water volumes were investigated to optimize the removal of exchangeable OBT from the samples.

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