A remotely operated, field deployable tritium analysis system for surface and groundwater measurement Page: 4 of 11
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A Remotely Operated, Field Deployable Tritium Analysis System for Surface and
Ground Water Measurement
P. R. Cable, K. J. Hofstetter, D. M. Beals, J. D. Jones and S. L. Collins
Westinghouse Savannah River Company
Savannah River Technology Center
Aiken, SC 29808
J. E. Noakes, J. D. Spaulding and M. P. Neary
Center for Applied Isotope Studies
120 Riverbend Rd.
Athens, GA 30602
Sampling Systems, Inc.
Old Ocean, TX 77463
A prototype system for the remote, in situ analysis of tritium in surface and ground waters has
been developed at the Savannah River Site through the combined efforts of university, private industry,
and government laboratory personnel under a project funded by the U. S. Department of Energy. Using
automated liquid scintillation counting techniques, the Field Deployable Tritium Analysis System
(FDTAS) has been shown in laboratory and field tests to have sufficient sensitivity to measure tritium in
water samples at environmental levels (10 Bq/L [-270 pCi/L] for a 100-minute count) on a near-real
time basis. The FDTAS consists of a fixed volume sampler (50 mL), an on-line water purification
system, and a stop-flow liquid scintillation counter for detecting tritium in the purified sample. All
operations are controlled and monitored by a remote computer using standard telephone line modem
communications. The FDTAS offers a cost-effective alternative to the expensive and time-consuming
methods of field sample collection and laboratory analyses for tritium in contaminated groundwater.
At the U. S. Department of Energy's Savannah River Site (SRS), a facility charged with the
handling of tritium and other special nuclear materials, an estimated 24 million curies (~1 EBq) of
tritium have been released to ground and surface waters from operational and disposal processes and
from unplanned events (1). As one of the most widespread and mobile contaminants found on site,
tritium poses a potential environmental hazard to populations in nearby communities and in the
downstream Savannah River watershed. The management of high- and low-level wastes resulting from
years of nuclear weapons production activities is now the highest priority mission of the U. S.
Department of Energy while cleaning up the legacy of nuclear waste at the three production sites (SRS,
Hanford and Oak Ridge). As a result, cutbacks in funding for environmental monitoring programs to
track and control the release of radionuclides to waste streams have occurred.
The characterization of tritium in ground and surface waters at the SRS has been ongoing for
many years by manual sample collection and laboratory analyses. Routine releases of tritium to surface
streams have recently been monitored by the Tritium Effluent Water Monitors (TEWM), developed at
SRS, (2,3) as well as by manual sampling and analyses. The TEWMs were developed as breakthrough
monitors that detect tritium at high levels (~1000 times normal background) for early notification of an
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Cable, P.R.; Hofstetter, K.J.; Beals, D.M.; Jones, J.D.; Collins, S.L.; Noakes, J.E. et al. A remotely operated, field deployable tritium analysis system for surface and groundwater measurement, report, December 31, 1996; Aiken, South Carolina. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc676402/m1/4/?rotate=90: accessed May 19, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.