Microscopic Examination of a Corrosion Front in Spent Nuclear Fuel

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Spent uranium oxide nuclear fuel hosts a variety of trace chemical constituents, many of which must be sequestered from the biosphere during fuel storage and disposal. In this paper we present synchrotron x-ray absorption spectroscopy and microscopy findings that illuminate the resultant local chemistry of neptunium and plutonium within spent uranium oxide nuclear fuel before and after corrosive alteration in an air-saturated aqueous environment. We find the plutonium and neptunium in unaltered spent fuel to have a +4 oxidation state and an environment consistent with solid-solution in the UO{sub 2} matrix. During corrosion in an air-saturated aqueous environment, the uranium ... continued below

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Fortner, J.A>; Kropf, A.J.; Finch, R.J. & Cunnane, J.C. June 20, 2006.

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Spent uranium oxide nuclear fuel hosts a variety of trace chemical constituents, many of which must be sequestered from the biosphere during fuel storage and disposal. In this paper we present synchrotron x-ray absorption spectroscopy and microscopy findings that illuminate the resultant local chemistry of neptunium and plutonium within spent uranium oxide nuclear fuel before and after corrosive alteration in an air-saturated aqueous environment. We find the plutonium and neptunium in unaltered spent fuel to have a +4 oxidation state and an environment consistent with solid-solution in the UO{sub 2} matrix. During corrosion in an air-saturated aqueous environment, the uranium matrix is converted to uranyl U(VI)O{sub 2}{sup 2+} mineral assemblage that is depleted in plutonium and neptunium relative to the parent fuel. At the corrosion front interface between intact fuel and the uranyl-mineral corrosion layer, we find evidence of a thin ({approx}20 micrometer) layer that is enriched in plutonium and neptunium within a predominantly U{sup 4+} environment. Available data for the standard reduction potentials for NpO{sup 2+}/Np{sup 4+} and UO{sub 2}{sup 2+}/U{sup 4+} couples indicate that Np(IV) may not be effectively oxidized to Np(V) at the corrosion potentials of uranium dioxide spent nuclear fuel in air-saturated aqueous solutions. Neptunium is an important radionuclide in dose contribution according to performance assessment models of the proposed U. S. repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. A scientific understanding of how the UO{sub 2} matrix of spent nuclear fuel impacts the oxidative dissolution and reductive precipitation of neptunium is needed to predict its behavior at the fuel surface during aqueous corrosion. Neptunium would most likely be transported as aqueous Np(V) species, but for this to occur it must first be oxidized from the Np(IV) state found within the parent spent nuclear fuel [1]. In the immediate vicinity of the spent fuel's surface the redox and nucleation behavior is likely to promote/enhance nucleation of NpO{sub 2} and Np{sub 2}O{sub 5}. Alternatively, Np may be incorporated into uranyl (UO{sub 2}{sup 2+}) alteration phases [2]. In some cases, less-soluble elements such as plutonium will be enriched near the surface of the corroding fuel [3]. We have used focused synchrotron x-rays from the MRCAT beam line at the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne National Lab to examine a specimen of spent nuclear fuel that had been subject to 10 years of corrosion testing in an environment of humid air and dripping groundwater at 90 C [4]. We find evidence of a region, approximately 20 microns in thickness, enriched in plutonium and neptunium at the corrosion front that exists between the uranyl silicate alteration mineral rind and the unaltered uranium oxide fuel (Figures 1 and 2). The uranyl silicate is itself found to be depleted in these transuranic elements relative to their abundance relative to uranium in the parent fuel. This suggests a low mobility of these components owing to a resistance to oxidize further in the presence of a UO{sub 2}{sup 2+}/U{sup 4+} couple [5].

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  • Report No.: NA
  • Grant Number: NA
  • DOI: 10.2172/893840 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 893840
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc879761

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  • June 20, 2006

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Dec. 9, 2016, 8:12 p.m.

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Fortner, J.A>; Kropf, A.J.; Finch, R.J. & Cunnane, J.C. Microscopic Examination of a Corrosion Front in Spent Nuclear Fuel, report, June 20, 2006; Las Vegas, Nevada. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc879761/: accessed July 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.