Tritium (3H) is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen and an active material that makes the exit signs glow in the dark without power. This low-energy beta particle can be stopped by paper, clothing and skin. Tritium exit signs are widely used by a surprisingly large number and type of facilities throughout the United States. Few facility owners are aware that the exit signs installed in their facilities are tritium exit signs. These common signs are regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the 36 Agreement States; therefore, the signs necessitate proper management and handling to ensure compliance with federal and state requirements.
It is important to understand how to identify and properly handle a tritium exit sign to avoid damage and improper disposal. A tritium exit sign can be identified by the following characteristics:
Labeling on the side, edge or back of the sign that includes:-
While owning a tritium exit sign is legal, facility owners must address the regulatory obligations that accompany ownership of this device. The NRC recently issued a package of challenging compliance responsibilities, including the following:
On January 16, 2009, the NRC released a “demand for information” to 62 organizations possessing 500 or more tritium exit signs. The demand required that the organizations provide an explanation of how it complies with the regulatory requirements applying to the possession, transfer and disposal of tritium exit signs. The demand also required the organizations to respond with the following information:
All responses were due by March 16, 2009, (within 60 days of request). The organizations receiving the demand for information were identified through the NRC’s General License Tracking System, which contains information filed by sign manufacturers. The organizations include large retail store chains, churches, federal and state agencies, school districts and universities. The NRC will likely identify a second tier of user organizations once the initial round of responses is received.
Retailers must be aware if they have signs, and must know how to properly manage signs at their stores and facilities. Best practices that retailers should follow include:
Greg ButlerClient Program Manager, Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure