Mercury-Free Dissolution of Aluminum-Based Nuclear Material: From Basic Science to the Plant

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Conditions were optimized for the first plant-scale dissolution of an aluminum-containing nuclear material without using mercury as a catalyst. This nuclear material was a homogeneous mixture of plutonium oxide and aluminum metal that had been compounded for use as the core matrix in Mark 42 nuclear fuel. Because this material had later failed plutonium distribution specifications, it was rejected for use in the fabrication of Mark 42 fuel tubes, and was stored at the Savannah River Site (SRS) awaiting disposition. This powder-like material was composed of a mixture of approximately 80 percent aluminum and 11 percent plutonium. Historically, aluminum-clad spent ... continued below

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Crooks, W.J. III May 14, 2003.

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Conditions were optimized for the first plant-scale dissolution of an aluminum-containing nuclear material without using mercury as a catalyst. This nuclear material was a homogeneous mixture of plutonium oxide and aluminum metal that had been compounded for use as the core matrix in Mark 42 nuclear fuel. Because this material had later failed plutonium distribution specifications, it was rejected for use in the fabrication of Mark 42 fuel tubes, and was stored at the Savannah River Site (SRS) awaiting disposition. This powder-like material was composed of a mixture of approximately 80 percent aluminum and 11 percent plutonium. Historically, aluminum-clad spent nuclear fuels [13] have been dissolved using a mercuric nitrate catalyst in a nitric acid (HNO3) solution to facilitate the dissolution of the bulk aluminum cladding. Developmental work at SRS indicated that the plutonium oxide/aluminum compounded matrix could be dissolved without mercury. Various mercury-free conditions were studied to evaluate the rate of dissolution of the Mark 42 compact material and to assess the corrosion rate to the stainless steel dissolver. The elimination of mercury from the dissolution process fit with waste minimization and industrial hygiene goals to reduce the use of mercury in the United States. The mercury-free dissolution technology was optimized for Mark 42 compact material in laboratory-scale tests, and successfully implemented at the plant.

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  • Journal Name: Nucleonika International Journal of Nuclear Research

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  • Report No.: WSRC-MS-2003-00254
  • Grant Number: AC09-96SR18500
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 810991
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc733724

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  • May 14, 2003

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  • Oct. 18, 2015, 6:40 p.m.

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  • May 5, 2016, 4:22 p.m.

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Crooks, W.J. III. Mercury-Free Dissolution of Aluminum-Based Nuclear Material: From Basic Science to the Plant, article, May 14, 2003; South Carolina. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc733724/: accessed September 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.