With the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) after the end of the Cold War, the existing supplies were sufficient for the new, smaller number of nuclear weapons for some time.
The production of tritium was resumed with irradiation of rods containing lithium (replacing the usual control rods containing boron, cadmium, or hafnium), at the reactors of the commercial Watts Bar Nuclear Generating Station in 2003–2005 followed by extraction of tritium from the rods at the new Tritium Extraction Facility All atomic nuclei, being composed of protons and neutrons, repel one another because of their positive charge.
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.Worldwide, the production of tritium from natural sources is 148,000 terabecquerels per year.The global equilibrium inventory of tritium created by natural sources remains approximately constant at 2,590,000 terabecquerels.This is due to a fixed production rate and losses proportional to the inventory.
According to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research report in 1996 about the U. Department of Energy, only 225 kg (496 lb) of tritium has been produced in the United States since 1955.Radioluminescent 1.8 curies (67 GBq) 6 by 0.2 inches (152.4 mm × 5.1 mm) tritium vials are thin, tritium-gas-filled glass vials whose inner surfaces are coated with a phosphor. Like the other isotopes of hydrogen, tritium is difficult to confine.Rubber, plastic, and some kinds of steel are all somewhat permeable.For applications in proposed fusion energy reactors, such as ITER, pebbles consisting of lithium bearing ceramics including Li High-energy neutrons can also produce tritium from lithium-7 in an endothermic (a net heat consuming reaction) reaction, consuming 2.466 Me V.This was discovered when the 1954 Castle Bravo nuclear test produced an unexpectedly high yield.Tritium is used as a radioactive tracer, in radioluminescent light sources for watches and instruments, and, along with deuterium, as a fuel for nuclear fusion reactions with applications in energy generation and weapons.