RE: Fusion Power

From: Alexanian, Moorad (
Date: Sat May 31 2003 - 22:18:00 EDT

It was Emil J. Konopinski, my PhD thesis advisor, who suggested when at Los Alamos the use of D-T (deuterium-tritium) rather than D-D reaction for the atomic bomb owing to the larger cross section of the D-T reaction. He was also the one who calculated that the explosion of an atomic bomb in the atmosphere would not ignite the atmosphere; such were the fears and the unknowns of the early nuclear efforts.







Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen which has one proton and two neutrons . It emits beta particles only and has a half-life of 12.3 years. The maximum beta energy is 18 keV, and the mean beta energy is 6 keV. A beta particle with energy of less than 70 keV will not penetrate the dead outer layer of the skin. Therefore, tritium is not an external radiation hazard , but when taken into the body it becomes an internal hazard .

Tritium is produced in accelerator cooling water systems which are subjected to large proton or neutron fluxes such as those of the meson production targets of the TRIUMF 500 MeV facility. The tritium is produced by spallation reactions with oxygen, nitrogen and carbon nuclei present in the water systems and to a much lesser degree by radiative capture of neutrons by the deuterium nuclei in water. The tritium atom then combines with a hydrogen and oxygen atom to form the molecule HTO, often called tritiated water.

Tritium does not contribute any significant part of the dose at TRIUMF, and most uptakes would be acute rather than chronic.

Uptakes of tritium usually result from inhalation and skin absorption, but ingestion is also possible. The blood distributes tritiated water equally among all the body fluids, just as it does with normal water. All the soft tissues in the body will be irradiated by the decaying tritium and they constitute 90% of the body weight. As a result any tritium in the body will lead to a whole body equivalent dose .


Noel Giffin
Wed Feb 7 15:55:12 PST 1996

        -----Original Message-----
        From: Lawrence Johnston []
        Sent: Sat 5/31/2003 8:53 PM
        Subject: Fusion Power

        Dear fellow ASA-ers:
        In the June issue of Perspectives there is a nice article by Ian
        Hutchinson, about his work on fusion power, in magnetic
        confinement reactors.
        This reminds me of a question that keeps coming back to me so I
        hope there is someone on our List who can help me understand why
        there is a hope that fusion power will someday be a practical
        energy source.
        Hutchinson talks about the D-T (Deuterium-Tritium)reaction as
        being the fuel. I can see where there is a natural source of
        Deuterium in heavy water. But where can you find an economical
        source of Tritium? My understanding is that tritium is made in
        fission reactors, so there is enough to do experiments with. But
        where would one get commercially important amounts of Tritium?
        I hope someone is lurking who has some knowledge of this field.
        May God richly bless, Larry Johnston
        Lawrence H. Johnston home: 917 E. 8th st.
        professor of physics, emeritus Moscow, Id 83843
        University of Idaho (208) 882-2765
        Fellow of the American Physical Society =========

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