07/18/2011

 
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Defense Programs

SRS has been recognized as the nation’s center of excellence for tritium

TritiumTritium facilities have operated at SRS since the Site began production. Historically, tritium is one of SRS’s major products. It is a radioactive hydrogen gas that is an integral part of nuclear weapon design.

SRS has been recognized as the nation’s center of excellence for tritium, and it is the only place in the United States where tritium production now occurs.

Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, which means that in 12.3 years, half of the tritium turns to helium. So, it must be continually replenished or recycled to keep the nation’s nuclear arsenal viable. SRS’s tritium facilities accomplish both these missions.

The Tritium Extraction Facility
SRS Tritium Extraction Facility

The Tritium Extraction Facility, which became fully operational in 2007, extracts tritium from fuel targets irradiated in Tennessee Valley Authority reactors. Here, the gas is extracted, purified, and sent to the H Area New Manufacturing Facility (HANM).

At HANM, which became operational in 1994 and received a comprehensive upgrade in 2004, existing reservoirs are received from the Department of Defense (DoD). These reservoirs contain three gases—tritium, non-radioactive deuterium and helium—and these gases are removed and pumped through a series of hydride beds to separate them. Then, tritium and deuterium are mixed to an exact ratio, and new reservoirs are loaded.

Typical Reservoir (unclassified)
Typical Reservoir (unclassified)

The last step in the process is performed at the H Area Old Manufacturing Facility, which was built in the late 1950s. Here, workers ensure loaded reservoirs are safe and meet specifications. In some cases, non-radioactive inert gases must be added to reservoirs, and this work is done in non-radiological areas at HAOM.

When all work is completed and reservoirs have met all specifications, they are shipped to DoD. SRS’s tritium facilities have a proud tradition of excellence and exacting perfection. In more than 50 years of operations, they have never missed a shipment to DoD.


 

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