FAQ: Evaluation of Facilities Handling Tritium
Q1. What is tritium?
Q2. What is the Tritium Studies Project?
Q3. What is the purpose and scope of the Evaluation of Facilities Handling Tritium report?
Q4. How was the study conducted?
Q5. What does the study conclude?
Q6. How will the report affect CNSC-licensed operations and facilities?
A1. Tritium is a radioactive form of hydrogen that occurs both naturally and as a by-product in nuclear reactors and tritium processing facilities. Tritium exposure can pose a health risk if it is ingested through drinking water or food, inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Releases of tritium by nuclear reactors and tritium processing facilities are regulated by the CNSC to ensure the health and safety of workers and the public, and the protection of the environment.
A2. In January 2007, the Commission Tribunal directed CNSC staff to initiate research studies on tritium releases in Canada, and to study and evaluate tritium processing facilities exercising the best practices around the globe. In response, the CNSC has undertaken several research projects under the banner of the Tritium Studies Project. This research will enhance the information used in the regulatory oversight of tritium processing and tritium releases in Canada.
A3. The scope of the Evaluation of Facilities Handling Tritium report is focused on the control of tritium to reduce any releases to the environment from companies using tritium as part of a manufacturing process. It is neither a full review of tritium engineering practice nor a review of new tritium processing technology where tritium is used as fuel (e.g. fusion technology). Information gathered in this report will be considered as part of the CNSC’s overall Tritium Studies Project analysis being submitted to the Commission Tribunal in 2010.
A4. In the Evaluation of Facilities Handling Tritium report, CNSC staff have compiled and evaluated facility designs and pollution prevention technologies for Canadian licensees releasing tritium to the environment, and compared these to best practices for similar facilities outside Canada. This evaluation involved licensed facilities that produce or process tritium, or manage tritium wastes and included comprehensive site visits to relevant facilities both in Canada and overseas.
A5. The overall conclusion is that current Canadian tritium processing operating practices are comparable to those in overseas facilities in the UK, Switzerland and South Africa. Effective management of tritium is being achieved through a wide variety of mechanisms. While Canadian facilities operate using many of the best practices listed in the report, adoption of additional proven methods could further minimize the releases of tritium to the environment.
A6. The Evaluation of Facilities Handling Tritium report had the objective of assembling facts on best practices for further assessment and therefore does not include specific regulatory recommendations. This information will be analyzed by CNSC staff in combination with the other Tritium Studies Project reports. This analysis along with any recommendations that may impact oversight and regulation will be submitted to the Commission Tribunal in 2010.