Nuclear installations release approx. 4.4E+16 Bq/year of tritium to the environment worldwide. There is currently no cost-efficient technology to separate tritium from water and mitigate the releases. The purpose of the project is to design and test different bio-based systems for cost-efficient separation of tritium. Nobody tried this before. The microbial approach will exploit microorganisms, which utilizes water during their metabolism. The idea is that light water molecules will be preferentially converted to hydrogen and oxygen during such processes. As a consequence, remaining water will be enriched in tritium. This process should be equivalent to electrolysis, which is currently the best technology available but operational costs are too expensive for large scale application as up to 10 MW are needed for electrolysis of 1 cubic meter of water. Microbially assisted enrichment of tritium should be more cost-effective as enrichment is part of regular metabolic activity of microbes. Produced hydrogen can be coupled with fuel cells to produce electricity. In addition, during hydrogen production CO2 is consumed, which decreases greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The overall objective of the project is to demonstrate feasibility of cost-efficient separation of tritium by using bio-based system. The vision is to scale up bio-based tritium separation and commercialize it for the benefit of the society and environment.
Project team: Marko Štrok, Aleš Lapanje, Raghuraj Singh Chouhan, Tomaž Rijavec, Borut Smodiš, Ljudmila Benedik, Leja Rovan