April 20, 2024

Micro-Quantification of Helium-3 and Helium-4 in TPBAR Components


This report documents the method development for measuring helium isotopes in micrometer-sized samples of tritium producing burnable absorption rod (TPBAR) components. Helium isotopes were measured as a tracer for tritium, which decays to 3He with a half-life of 12.33 years. Getter and cladding materials from the TPBARs were analyzed, as they are designed to trap tritium. Therefore, constraining the diffusivity of tritium through these materials is of key importance. To first establish the reliability of the noble gas mass spectrometer, a reference gas with a relative 4He/3He ratio of 1000 was pre-mixed. This standard was measured several times to ensure measurements were reproducible. Unirradiated and irradiated getter and cladding samples of TPBARs were cut into 1-100 µm3 cubes and analyzed for 3He and 4He content. The unirradiated materials had helium content equal to or less than that of the measured instrument background. Irradiated cladding also had instrument background levels of helium while irradiated getters had elevated levels of 3He, interpreted to be the decay product of tritium. No diffusion of 4He was observed in any of these materials, however, indicating that the 3He detected in the irradiated getter was produced in situ after tritium diffusion and decay. These findings validate this method as a way to trace tritium diffusion in reactor materials.

Published: April 20, 2024


DeFelice C.J., M. Liezers, D.J. Barton, and C.D. Hilton. 2024. Micro-Quantification of Helium-3 and Helium-4 in TPBAR Components Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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