Rapid interference free measurement of waterborne tritium


Technology summary

A collaboration between Hybrid Instruments Limited and Lancaster University has produced a prototype device, TRIBECA, for the real-time measurement of waterborne tritium. This project offers Sellafield Ltd the chance of meeting important statutory requirements more efficiently.

Nuclear sites such as Sellafield are required periodically to measure waterborne tritium. Currently, this involves collecting and preparing groundwater samples and sending them off-site for third-party laboratory testing. This is a lengthy and costly process.

Using TRIBECA, Hybrid and Lancaster have shown they can measure tritium in groundwater samples under laboratory conditions. Concentrations as low as 10 kBq/l (10 Bq/g) have been detected. It has also been demonstrated that measurements are immune to other possible contaminants.

Efforts are now focussed on further development of the instrument with an anticipated detection level of 100 Bq/l.

With the support of LabLogic Systems Limited in automating the fluid handling, the aim is to deploy the technology on the Sellafield site by mid-2021.

Key benefits and applications

  • Results in hours, rather than days or weeks
  • Offers Sellafield Ltd the chance of meeting important statutory requirements more efficiently
  • All manual interventions involve some radiation risk, increased automation of monitoring reduces these risks
  • Proprietary technology renders the detector immune to other radioactive contaminants thus eliminating time consuming and costly purification processes
  • Sending samples off site is costly and involves some radiation risks; on site analysis reduces these risks
  • Siting at the borehole will employ existing pumping infrastructure
National Nuclear Laboratory

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