TRIBECA project aims to help Sellafield improve tritium testing

By September 23, 2020Nuclear

A new Game Changers project, based on a collaboration between Hybrid Instruments and Lancaster University, offers Sellafield 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.

Hybrid Instruments and Lancaster University’s collaboration has resulted in a prototype device, called TRIBECA, for the fast detection and measurement of waterborne tritium.  It’s hoped this new technology will enable Sellafield to measure tritium in real time, on site, removing the need to send samples away for analysis.

Using TRIBECA, Hybrid and Lancaster have shown they can measure tritium in groundwater samples under laboratory conditions. TRIBECA is based on a solid-state, scintillation detector which is fast and accurate. It provides precise measurement of waterborne tritium and is immune to other possible contaminants in the water.

As well as supporting statutory reporting, in field, high frequency analysis may also help in improving Sellafield’s conceptual understanding of groundwater flow and how this may vary with time.  This will support efforts to remediate the Sellafield site.

The new Game Changers project will focus on showing the prototype complies with statutory user regulations and on developments needed to turn a laboratory demonstrator into a commercial system, useable on site by Sellafield.  Opportunities to use the device in active trials are currently being explored and it is hoped that a deployable system may be available for use within two years.

The developing technology could well prove useful on other nuclear sites where tritium groundwater measurement is also a statutory requirement.