Fate of Noble Metals during the Pyroprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel

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During the pyroprocessing of spent nuclear fuel by electrochemical techniques, fission products are separated as the fuel is oxidized at the anode and refined uranium is deposited at the cathode. Those fission products that are oxidized into the molten salt electrolyte are considered active metals while those that do not react are considered noble metals. The primary noble metals encountered during pyroprocessing are molybdenum, zirconium, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, and technetium. Pyroprocessing of spent fuel to date has involved two distinctly different electrorefiner designs, in particular the anode to cathode configuration. For one electrorefiner, the anode and cathode collector are horizontally ... continued below

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Westphal, B.R.; Vaden, D.; Li, S.X.; Fredrickson, G.L. & Mariani, R.D. September 1, 2009.

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During the pyroprocessing of spent nuclear fuel by electrochemical techniques, fission products are separated as the fuel is oxidized at the anode and refined uranium is deposited at the cathode. Those fission products that are oxidized into the molten salt electrolyte are considered active metals while those that do not react are considered noble metals. The primary noble metals encountered during pyroprocessing are molybdenum, zirconium, ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, and technetium. Pyroprocessing of spent fuel to date has involved two distinctly different electrorefiner designs, in particular the anode to cathode configuration. For one electrorefiner, the anode and cathode collector are horizontally displaced such that uranium is transported across the electrolyte medium. As expected, the noble metal removal from the uranium during refining is very high, typically in excess of 99%. For the other electrorefiner, the anode and cathode collector are vertically collocated to maximize uranium throughput. This arrangement results in significantly less noble metals removal from the uranium during refining, typically no better than 20%. In addition to electrorefiner design, operating parameters can also influence the retention of noble metals, albeit at the cost of uranium recovery. Experiments performed to date have shown that as much as 100% of the noble metals can be retained by the cladding hulls while affecting the uranium recovery by only 6%. However, it is likely that commercial pyroprocessing of spent fuel will require the uranium recovery to be much closer to 100%. The above mentioned design and operational issues will likely be driven by the effects of noble metal contamination on fuel fabrication and performance. These effects will be presented in terms of thermal properties (expansion, conductivity, and fusion) and radioactivity considerations. Ultimately, the incorporation of minor amounts of noble metals from pyroprocessing into fast reactor metallic fuel will be shown to be of no consequence to reactor performance.

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  • Global 2009,Paris, France,09/06/2009,09/11/2009

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  • Report No.: INL/CON-08-15187
  • Grant Number: DE-AC07-05ID14517
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 968584
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc927033

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  • September 1, 2009

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  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Jan. 4, 2017, 2:20 p.m.

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Westphal, B.R.; Vaden, D.; Li, S.X.; Fredrickson, G.L. & Mariani, R.D. Fate of Noble Metals during the Pyroprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel, article, September 1, 2009; [Idaho]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc927033/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.