Posts Tagged ‘CANDU reactors’

Tritium essential to construction of nuclear weapons

May 26th, 2012 No comments

From the Federation of American Scientists, Special Weapons Primer, Weapons of Mass Destruction (

“Tritium ( 3 H) is essential to the construction of boosted-fission nuclear weapons. A boosted weapon contains a mixture of deuterium and tritium, the gases being heated and compressed by the detonation of a plutonium or uranium device. The D-T mixture is heated to a temperature and pressure such that thermonuclear fusion occurs. This process releases a flood of 14 MeV neutrons which cause additional fissions in the device, greatly increasing its efficiency.

“Tritium is rare in nature because of its 12.4-year half-life. It is produced by cosmic radiation in the upper atmosphere where it combines with oxygen to form water. It then falls to earth as rain, but the concentration is too low to be useful in a nuclear weapons program. Most tritium is produced by bombarding 6Li [ 6 Li(n, a) 3 H] with neutrons in a reactor; it is also produced as a byproduct of the operation of a heavy-water-moderated reactor when neutrons are captured on the deuterons present.

“Tritium can be stored and shipped as a gas, a metal hydride (e.g., of titanium) or tritide, and trapped in zeolites (hydrated aluminum silicate compounds with uniform size pores in their crystalline structure). Stainless-steel cylinders with capacities up to 5.6 ‘ 10 7 GBq (1.5 MCi) of tritium gas are used for transportation and storage and must be constructed to withstand the additional pressure which will build up as tritium gradually decays to 3 He.

“All five declared nuclear weapon states must have the underlying capability to manufacture and handle tritium, although the United States has shut down its production reactors due to safety considerations. Canada manufactures tritium as a byproduct of the operation of CANDU reactors. (emphasis added) In principle, limited amounts of tritium could be made in any research reactor with the ability to accept a target to be irradiated.

          Sources and Methods

  • Adapted from - Nuclear Weapons Technology Militarily Critical Technologies List (MCTL) Part II: Weapons of Mass Destruction Technologies”

One tritium exit sign contains enough radiation for a lethal dose

April 7th, 2009 Comments off

Ontario Power Generation sells waste tritium from CANDU reactors to two Ontario companies that manufacture tritium lights,  SRB Technologies in Pembroke and Shield Source in Peterborough. These companies use the tritium to make self-luminous exit signs. TAP believes that the marketing of radioactive waste in these products should be prohibited. Safer, more effective and more energy efficient alternatives are available.

Besides being hazardous during manufacture and disposal, tritium lights and products containing them are hazardous during use. The tritium contained in a single exit sign, if fully oxidized and inhaled would constitute a lethal dose of radiation. Incidents have occurred in the United States where lights have been accidentally or intentionally broken, thus requiring expensive emergency measures including evacuations and decontamination operations.

This and other problems are described in the TAP fact sheet “Problems with tritium exit signs” available in PDF format for download in the documents section of this website.

A series of stories about SRB Technologies from the archives

April 3rd, 2009 Comments off

We have just posted several archival news stories here on the TAP website,  dealing with tritium pollution from SRB Technologies Inc. in Pembroke, Ontario. This story is incredible but true. 

SRB  was licensed by the Atomic Energy Control Board (now the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission) in 1990  to market a radioactive waste byproduct of CANDU reactors called tritium — a radioactive form of hydrogen. SRB makes self-illuminating signs — they glow in the dark because they are filled with large quantities of radioactive tritium gas.  

Over the years. SRB has contaminated the environment in Pembroke with high levels of tritium. In some years, more tritium was given off into the environment by the SRB plant than by all of Canada’s nuclear power reactors combined.  Meanwhile, SRB is exporting tritium contamination problems around the world because there is no effective control over the ultimate disposal of these radioactive signs. 

This story is replete with patent examples of regulatory incompetence, murky questions about nuclear weapons and international security risks (because tritium is also used as a nuclear explosive material) and salt-of-the-earth folks being treated with disregard and exposed to high levels of radioactive tritium for  almost 20 years with no end in sight.  Please see also the “personal stories” category for more about this.

TAP feels that the marketing of radioactive wastes like tritium should be banned in Canada, and the SRB plant should be permanently shut down