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Title: Overview of reductants utilized in nuclear fuel reprocessing/recycling

Most of the aqueous processes developed, or under consideration worldwide for the recycling of used nuclear fuel (UNF) utilize the oxido-reduction properties of actinides to separate them from other radionuclides. Generally, after acid dissolution of the UNF, (essentially in nitric acid solution), actinides are separated from the raffinate by liquid-liquid extraction using specific solvents, associated along the process, with a particular reductant that will allow the separation to occur. For example, the industrial PUREX process utilizes hydroxylamine as a plutonium reductant. Hydroxylamine has numerous advantages: not only does it have the proper attributes to reduce Pu(IV) to Pu(III), but it is also a non-metallic chemical that is readily decomposed to innocuous products by heating. However, it has been observed that the presence of high nitric acid concentrations or impurities (such as metal ions) in hydroxylamine solutions increase the likelihood of the initiation of an autocatalytic reaction. Recently there has been some interest in the application of simple hydrophilic hydroxamic ligands such as acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) for the stripping of tetravalent actinides in the UREX process flowsheet. This approach is based on the high coordinating ability of hydroxamic acids with tetravalent actinides (Np and Pu) compared with hexavalent uranium. Thus, themore » use of AHA offers a route for controlling neptunium and plutonium in the UREX process by complexant based stripping of Np(IV) and Pu(IV) from the TBP solvent phase, while U(VI) ions are not affected by AHA and remain solvated in the TBP phase. In the European GANEX process, AHA is also used to form hydrophilic complexes with actinides and strip them from the organic phase into nitric acid. However, AHA does not decompose completely when treated with nitric acid and hampers nitric acid recycling. In lieu of using AHA in the UREX + process, formohydroxamic acid (FHA), although not commercially available, hold promises as a replacement for AHA. FHA undergoes hydrolysis to formic acid which is volatile, thus allowing the recycling of nitric acid. Unfortunately, FHA powder was not stable in the experiments we ran in our laboratory. In addition, AHA and FHA also decompose to hydroxylamine which may undergo an autocatalytic reaction. Other reductants are available and could be extremely useful for actinides separation. The review presents the current plutonium reductants used in used nuclear fuel reprocessing and will introduce innovative and novel reductants that could become reducers for future research on UNF separation.« less
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Conference: Global 2013,Salt Lake City,09/29/2013,10/03/2013
Research Org:
Idaho National Laboratory (INL)
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Country of Publication:
United States
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS ganex; reductant; actinides; purex; recycling; urex