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The release or recovery of tritium needs to be considered in the operation of nuclear reactors, especially in the reprocessing of nuclear fuels and in the storage of spent nuclear fuel.
The production of tritium is not a goal, but rather a side-effect.
The low energy of tritium's radiation makes it difficult to detect tritium-labeled compounds except by using liquid scintillation counting.
Tritium is produced in nuclear reactors by neutron activation of lithium-6.
This is possible with neutrons of any energy, and is an exothermic reaction yielding 4.8 Me V.
In comparison, the fusion of deuterium with tritium releases about 17.6 Me V of energy.
Tritium is also produced in heavy water-moderated reactors whenever a deuterium nucleus captures a neutron.
This reaction has a quite small absorption cross section, making heavy water a good neutron moderator, and relatively little tritium is produced.
The name of this isotope is derived from Greek τρίτος (trítos), meaning 'third'.However, if the atoms have a high enough temperature and pressure (for example, in the core of the Sun), then their random motions can overcome such electrical repulsion (called the Coulomb force), and they can come close enough for the strong nuclear force to take effect, fusing them into heavier atoms.The tritium nucleus, containing one proton and two neutrons, has the same charge as the nucleus of ordinary hydrogen, and it experiences the same electrostatic repulsive force when brought close to another atomic nucleus.Even so, cleaning tritium from the moderator may be desirable after several years to reduce the risk of its escaping to the environment.
Ontario Power Generation's "Tritium Removal Facility" processes up to 2,500 tonnes (2,500 long tons; 2,800 short tons) of heavy water a year, and it separates out about 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) of tritium, making it available for other uses., also known as hydrogen-3) is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen.