The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that operators of nuclear power plants measure the amount of the radionuclide carbon-14 in their gaseous effluents. A proposed new ASTM standard will aid plants (and other facilities at which fission reactions or spent fuel processing takes place) in making these measurements.
Robert Litman, Ph.D., an independent consultant and D19 member, says the chemical form of carbon-14 in effluents may be organic (as short chain aliphatic hydrocarbons), inorganic (as carbon dioxide) or as particulate matter. It is essential to know which form of C-14 is being released.
“Originally, it was assumed that all C-14 was released as inorganic carbon, which can have significant uptake locally to where it is released,” says Litman. “Through measurements at several different nuclear facilities using this proposed standard practice, and other practices similar to it, it was discovered that the chemical form of C-14 may be as high as 95 percent organic carbon, which has a lower dose consequence compared to inorganic carbon.”
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