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Old December 17, 2000, 01:47 AM   #1
Skorzeny
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Tritium used in gun sights is radioactive (hence the brightness), yet it is considered safe.

Can someone who is knowledgeable on this issue explain to me in scientific terms why it is safe?

Also, exactly what type and amount of radiation does Tritium emit?

Thanks.

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Old December 17, 2000, 03:39 AM   #2
LongArms
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HI! This page says it better than I could.

http://www.physics.isu.edu/radinf/tritium.htm
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Old December 17, 2000, 02:09 PM   #3
Mal H
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That is a very good link to explain the nature of Tritium. The amount in a gun sight is so miniscule that if you were to break the sight accidently, it would rise and be gone almost instantaneously.

I used to work at a plant that made both Tritium and Plutonium among other elements. (Tritium has a much more insidious use than in gun sights.) I also wondered about the safety of Tritium and asked the plant health physics guy. He said, "Nah, don't worry about it. But that Pu you've got there, now that you should worry about." Pu is one of the most deadly poisons, gram for gram, if ingested.
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Old December 18, 2000, 10:20 AM   #4
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Mal H, which facility did you work at? Oak Ridge or Hanford?

As for the illusion to tritium's other use, for those who don't know or haven't read Sum of All Fears by Clancy, tritium is used to enhance the yield in thermonuclear weapons.
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Old December 18, 2000, 10:47 AM   #5
Mike Irwin
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Wow, that's a really fascinating page!
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Old December 18, 2000, 12:35 PM   #6
M1911
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Tritium was also made at Savannah River. Spent a year there building the Steel Creek dam, so they could restart L-reactor to make tritium. IIRC, they never did restart that reactor...

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Old December 18, 2000, 01:07 PM   #7
buzz_knox
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I forgot about Savannah. TVA is going to be producing tritium at Watts Bar for DOE. Caused quite a bit of fuss around these parts.
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Old December 18, 2000, 09:48 PM   #8
Mal H
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Sorry for the delay, I just got back here.

Buzz, I worked at Hanford's mirror image - SRP/SRL back when it was run by DuPont and there was a real AEC.
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Old December 19, 2000, 01:02 PM   #9
M1911
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Mal:

When I was at SRP, it was indeed during the DuPont days. We had great relations with the DuPont folks. Good people.

The Steel Creek dam project was managed by the Corps of Engineers. The consulting firm that I worked for was hired by DuPont. They were going to run the dam and wanted to make sure it was built properly.

I had a rather fun Saturday at the site one time. DOE wanted to start filling the reservoir before the dam was completed. Two of the most dangerous times for an earthen dam are during construction and during first reservoir filling. We told DuPont that unless all instrumentation (pressure guages inside the dam) was working, that we would recommend against it filling the dam.

So, come Saturday, the instrumentation was all in place, but the device used to read the guages was broken. I told the Corps that we recommended against filling the dam until the device was fixed, and informed my boss (at home) and my DuPont contact about the situation. The Corps told the number 2 DOE guy at the plant, who came down to the site. He first tried to sweet talk me. Then he threatened to call my boss. I told him to go ahead, here's his home number, and I've already told him about the situation. I could see his mind working -- "Darn. Plan A didn't work. Neither did Plan B. Let's go to Plan C." So then he said that they were just goint to start filling the reservoir anyways. So he called the pumping station and told them to start pumping. Too bad for him. The pumping station employees worked for DuPont, and said they wouldn't start pumping. LOL.

Two hours later, I fixed the contractor's reading device for them (read the manual and figured out it just needed to be recalibrated), and the filling started. But it was rather amusing to be a 23-year-old junior inspector that stopped works...

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Old December 19, 2000, 03:50 PM   #10
Mal H
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M1911 - that's a great story. You're right about the DuPont people, they were the best. I'm not at all surprised that they stood up to the almighty DOE. The DuPont management would always, without fail, err on the side of caution. That incident illustrates what I mean by a real AEC. There were actually physicists in charge who knew what they were doing and, perhaps more importantly, what they shouldn't be doing. When the DOE was formed it became too political. And we all know what results when that happens. Anybody seen our country's long term energy plan lately? But we are really digressing from the intent of this thread, eh wot?
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