Tritium production

FFI-Report 2020

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Report number

20/01388

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978-82-464-3270-0

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Steinar Høibråten

Tritium is an important material used in most, if not all, nuclear weapons. It is therefore also of importance in the field of export control. This report discusses production methods and availability of this hydrogen isotope.

Tritium is radioactive, and about 5.5 percent of existing stocks undergo radioactive decay to helium-3 every year. Tritium is produced in nuclear reactors by neutron capture on lithium-6, and remaining stocks are processed regularly to remove (and capture) the accumulated helium-3.

The infrastructure required to produce tritium is complex and expensive. It spans from the mining of lithium through enrichment in lithium-6 and shaping of this for use as target material in nuclear reactors to extraction and purification of tritium and handling of tritium reservoirs. These processes are illustrated using the United States as an example.

Despite the complexity, no serious, potentially show-stopping bottlenecks to a nuclear-weapon programme were identified.

About publication

Report number

20/01388

ISBN

978-82-464-3270-0

Format

PDF-document

Size

1.1 MB

Download publication

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