Environmental Fate of Tritium in Soil and Vegetation

About the report

The Environmental Fate of Tritium in Soil and Vegetation report provides results of Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)-funded research by the University of Ottawa on the amount of tritium in soil, garden produce, animal fodder and animal products near four tritium-releasing facilities during the 2008 and 2009 growing seasons. The four facilities studied were: SRB Technologies, Shield Source Incorporated, Darlington Nuclear Generating Station and Gentilly-2 Nuclear Generating Station. The objective of the report was to understand the unexpected relationship between tritiated water and organically bound tritium in environmental samples that were found in the Tritium Activity in Garden Produce from Pembroke in 2007 and Dose to the Public research, released in April 2010.


The main findings of the study are:

  • Levels of organically bound tritium and tritiated water in soil and vegetation near nuclear facilities pose no health risks; public doses are extremely low and well below regulatory limits.
  • In general, OBT/HTO levels decrease in samples collected further from a facility. This trend was most pronounced in environmental samples obtained near nuclear processing facilities and less pronounced near nuclear power plants.
  • Garden produce sampled for the Environmental Fate of Tritium in Soil and Vegetation study showed that OBT activities best reflected the year-to-year changes in stack emissions; HTO activities were not informative.
  • The levels of organically bound tritium in tree rings may be used as a useful indicator of historical emissions under certain conditions.
  • While the dose from consuming garden produce with the levels of tritium measured during this study are orders of magnitude below doses known to cause health effects, the CNSC is continuing its research to further advance our knowledge of the behaviour of tritium in the environment.

Read the report: Environmental Fate of Tritium in Soil and Vegetation (PDF)