Investigation of Plutonium and Uranium Precipitation Behavior with Gadolinium as a Neutron Poison

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The caustic precipitation of plutonium (Pu)-containing solutions has been investigated to determine whether the presence of 3:1 uranium (U):Pu in solutions stored in the H-Canyon Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) would adversely impact the use of gadolinium nitrate (Gd(NO3)3) as a neutron poison. In the past, this disposition strategy has been successfully used to discard solutions containing approximately 100 kg of Pu to the SRS high level waste (HLW) system. In the current experiments, gadolinium (as Gd(NO3)3) was added to samples of a 3:1 U:Pu solution, a surrogate 3 g/L U solution, and ... continued below

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Visser, A.E. October 17, 2003.

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The caustic precipitation of plutonium (Pu)-containing solutions has been investigated to determine whether the presence of 3:1 uranium (U):Pu in solutions stored in the H-Canyon Facility at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Savannah River Site (SRS) would adversely impact the use of gadolinium nitrate (Gd(NO3)3) as a neutron poison. In the past, this disposition strategy has been successfully used to discard solutions containing approximately 100 kg of Pu to the SRS high level waste (HLW) system. In the current experiments, gadolinium (as Gd(NO3)3) was added to samples of a 3:1 U:Pu solution, a surrogate 3 g/L U solution, and a surrogate 3 g/L U with 1 g/L Pu solution. A series of experiments was then performed to observe and characterize the precipitate at selected pH values. Solids formed at pH 4.5 and were found to contain at least 50 percent of the U and 94 percent of the Pu, but only 6 percent of the Gd. As the pH of the solution increased (e.g., pH greater than 14 with 1.2 or 3.6 M sodium hydroxide (NaOH) excess), the precipitate contained greater than 99 percent of the Pu, U, and Gd. After the pH greater than 14 systems were undisturbed for one week, no significant changes were found in the composition of the solid or supernate for each sample. The solids were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD) which found sodium diuranate (Na2U2O7) and gadolinium hydroxide (Gd(OH)3) at pH 14. Thermal gravimetric analysis (TGA) indicated sufficient water molecules were present in the solids to thermalize the neutrons, a requirement for the use of Gd as a neutron poison. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was also performed and the accompanying back-scattering electron analysis (BSE) found Pu, U, and Gd compounds in all pH greater than 14 precipitate samples. The rheological properties of the slurries at pH greater than 14 were also investigated by performing precipitate settling rate studies and measuring the viscosity and density of the materials. Based on the results of these experiments, poisoning the Pu-U solutions with Gd and subsequent neutralization is a viable process for discarding the Pu to the SRS HLW system.

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  • Journal Name: Separation Science and Technology

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  • Report No.: WSRC-MS-2003-00602
  • Grant Number: AC09-96SR18500
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 816626
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc736580

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Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • October 17, 2003

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  • Oct. 18, 2015, 6:40 p.m.

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  • May 5, 2016, 6:04 p.m.

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Visser, A.E. Investigation of Plutonium and Uranium Precipitation Behavior with Gadolinium as a Neutron Poison, article, October 17, 2003; South Carolina. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc736580/: accessed July 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.