Tritium Recycling - Safe and Effective

Tritium recycling - safe and effective

Lights that run without the aid of batteries or electricity are called self-illuminating lights. These types of lights are usually used for small units like exit signs. It’s important for exit signs to work regardless of the situation since people need to know how to leave a building. Even if the battery dies, or the power goes out for an extended period of time, individuals in large maze-like buildings will be able to follow the lights to get out of the building.

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Lights with Tritium

The types of lights contain tritium, a non-toxic radioactive isotope of the element of hydrogen. Because these types of lights contain this type of chemical, they cannot be disposed of in the traditional way. Tritium recycling needs to be done in a safe and effective manner. To understand why tritium recycling needs to be done, it’s a good idea to understand the chemical behind these lights that require no electricity or battery power to function.

Understanding Tritium

Tritium, as mentioned earlier, is a radioactive isotope of the element hydrogen. Hydrogen has the chemical symbol H and tritium has a chemical symbol H-3. The chemical is found naturally in the environment. H-3 is naturally produced high up in the air when air molecules and cosmic rays strike each other. Sometimes tritium is produced as a by product in reactors producing electricity.

Deriving the compound

When tritium is created in the environment, the concentrations are usually very low. When located in the environment, the chemical can be found in the form of tritiated water which doesn’t last long in the atmosphere. For this reason, it’s possible for the average person to be exposed to small amounts of tritium every day without getting any physical damage from it.

Safe chemical

Tritium is considered to be so safe that it has now replaced radium for luminescent sources in gauges and watches. Radium has been banned in the United States as being a toxic, hazardous substance. Although tritium is safer than radium, it still contains radioactive material. For this reason, most jurisdictions including the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has strict guidelines regarding tritium recycling.

Licensed disposal

When signs contain tritium, they cannot be dumped in waste pits. When they reach the expiry of their lifespan, which can be as long as 20 years, they need to be returned safely to licensed sites. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in severe penalties and fines.

Reporting tritium sign disposal

The person who owns the signs are responsible for reporting the disposal process to the NRC so that it can be proven that the tritium recycling was done properly. Information that needs to be provided includes date of transfer and identification of the device including the manufacturer’s name, unit serial number and model number. A report must be provided within 30 days to the Director, Office of Federal and State Materials and Environmental Management Programs.

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