Spectrum isotopes library


Tritium hydrogen-3
β, x-ray radiation
Half-life: 12,3 years

Where detected

Tritium, also known as hydrogen-3, is indeed a rare and radioactive isotope of hydrogen with a half-life of approximately 12.3 years. Its occurrence naturally on Earth is extremely scarce, with trace amounts found in the atmosphere due to the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric gases. Tritium can also be artificially produced through the irradiation of lithium metal or lithium-bearing ceramic pebbles in nuclear reactors. This process not only yields tritium but also makes it a byproduct in normal operations of nuclear reactors​.

Tritium's practical applications are broad and significant. It serves as an energy source in radioluminescent devices, including watches, firearm night sights, various instruments, tools, and novelty items like self-illuminating keychains. Its use as a radioactive tracer in medical and scientific settings highlights its importance in research and diagnostics. Furthermore, tritium, combined with deuterium, is utilized as a fuel in nuclear fusion reactions, both in experimental tokamak reactors and hydrogen bombs, showcasing its potential in energy production and national defense​.

The health effects and environmental impact of tritium have been studied extensively. As a beta emitter, tritium poses a lower risk compared to more penetrating forms of radiation. Tritium in the form of tritiated water is chemically identical to regular water, making it impossible to filter tritium out from water. While nuclear power plants have reported abnormal releases of water containing tritium, resulting in groundwater contamination, these incidents are monitored closely. The radiation dose from such releases to the public is significantly lower than the doses from natural background radiation and medical procedures. The exposure risks from tritium, as per the current scientific understanding and regulatory standards, are considered low​​.

The regulatory framework and safety measures in place aim to minimize tritium exposure from nuclear facilities and ensure that the health risks associated with tritium radiation exposure are managed effectively, adhering to the principle of keeping radiation doses "as low as reasonably achievable"​.