Traits of the Tritium Molecule


Tritium, like most forms of hydrogen, has a single electron orbiting its atom, which allows it to react chemically and form compounds similar to hydrogen. The most common forms of tritium that you may come across are HT, which is an invisible gas similar to hydrogen, and HTO, or tritiated water. The only real health risk posed by tritium is when it is ingested in liquid form (HTO). In its gaseous state (HT), only 0.005% of the tritium dose is likely to be absorbed by the lungs.

Illegal Tritium Dumping

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) conducted a two-year study on the presence of radioactive material leachate in 54 landfills in Pennsylvania, as a follow-up to the new requirements for radiation mitigation at solid waste management facilities in the state. The study revealed higher than normal levels of H3 tritium in the leachate at 51 out of the 54 facilities.


Tritium Factoids:

Tritium is a hydrogen isotope. Like most hydrogen atoms, it is composed of one proton and an orbital electron. However, tritium has two extra neutrons in the nucleus.

Radioactive Deterioration:

When tritium undergoes nuclear decay, it emits a low-energy beta particle, which is similar to an electron. During the decay, the nucleus and the atomic level lose energy, resulting in the formation of a helium atom (3He), which is much more stable.

Definitive Activity:

9,649 curies (3.57×1015 Bq) per gram.


12.33 years

Tritium Sources


Cosmic rays interact with nitrogen or with deuterium and form tritium and carbon. These are primarily interactions that happen in the upper atmosphere and the tritium falls to Earth as rain.


Tritium is produced in nuclear reactors by neutron activation of lithium-6. Tritium is also produced in heavy water-moderated reactors whenever a deuterium nucleus captures a neutron.