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The Significance of Tritium Releases to the Environment

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3 Author(s)
Koranda, John J. ; Bio-Medical Division Lawrence Livermore Laboratory University of California, Livermore, California 94550 ; Anspaugh, Lynn R. ; Martin, John R.

Tritium is produced naturally and was present in low concentrations in precipitation and natural bodies of water before atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. Other sources of tritium are now present from which tritium is released to the environment. Nuclear reactor tritium production, according to recent estimates, will equal natural tritium production before the year 2000. Predicted increases of tritium in the environment will take place first on a local ecological level and then appear on a biospheric level. Tritium introduced into the environment as THO will move through ecological systems in the same manner as stable water. Tritium will enter the hydrologic cycle either via evapo-transpiration or the surface bodies of water. Ecological experiments have been conducted to determine the movement of tritium in the environment. Field-grown plants were exposed to liquid and vapor THO for periods of one-half and one hours. Tritium concentrations were determined in leaf samples collected after exposure for periods of time up to 45 days. Tritium decays rapidly in the plant species studied and exhibited a three component half-life when plants were exposed to THO vapor. The length of exposure, and sources of THO in the soil affect the half-time of tritium in the plant tissues. Data produced in ecological experiments on tritium movement are used in a theoretical consideration of acute and chronic vapor releases of tritium in an agricultural environment.

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Nuclear Science, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:19 ,  Issue: 1 )