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Title: Dissolution Flowsheet for High Flux Isotope Reactor Fuel

As part of the Spent Nuclear Fuel (SNF) processing campaign, H-Canyon is planning to begin dissolving High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) fuel in late FY17 or early FY18. Each HFIR fuel core contains inner and outer fuel elements which were fabricated from uranium oxide (U3O8) dispersed in a continuous Al phase using traditional powder metallurgy techniques. Fuels fabricated in this manner, like other SNF’s processed in H-Canyon, dissolve by the same general mechanisms with similar gas generation rates and the production of H2. The HFIR fuel cores will be dissolved and the recovered U will be down-blended into low-enriched U. HFIR fuel was previously processed in H-Canyon using a unique insert in both the 6.1D and 6.4D dissolvers. Multiple cores will be charged to the same dissolver solution maximizing the concentration of dissolved Al. The objective of this study was to identify flowsheet conditions through literature review and laboratory experimentation to safely and efficiently dissolve the HFIR fuel in H-Canyon. Laboratory-scale experiments were performed to evaluate the dissolution of HFIR fuel using both Al 1100 and Al 6061 T6 alloy coupons. The Al 1100 alloy was considered a representative surrogate which provided an upper bound on the generation of flammablemore » (i.e., H2) gas during the dissolution process. The dissolution of the Al 6061 T6 alloy proceeded at a slower rate than the Al 1100 alloy and was used to verify that the target Al concentration in solution could be achieved for the selected Hg concentration. Mass spectrometry and Raman spectroscopy were used to provide continuous monitoring of the concentration of H2 and other permanent gases in the dissolution offgas allowing the development of H2 generation rate profiles. The H2 generation rates were subsequently used to evaluate if a full HFIR core could be dissolved in an H-Canyon dissolver without exceeding 60% of the calculated lower flammability limit (LFL) for H2 at a given Hg concentration. Complete dissolution of the Al 1100 and Al 6061 T6 alloys up to a final Al concentration of 2 M was obtained using a 7 M HNO3 solution containing a 0.002 M Hg catalyst. However, following the dissolutions, solids were observed in the solution. The solids were amorphous, but likely originated from the Si present in the alloys. No crystalline materials, such as Al(NO3)3 were observed. During the course of the dissolution experiments, it was determined that delaying the addition of Hg once the HNO3 solution reached the boiling point can reduce the total offgas and H2 generation rates. The delay in starting the Hg addition is not necessary for HFIR fuel dissolution, but could be useful in other research reactor dissolution campaigns. The potential to generate flammable concentrations of H2 in the offgas during a HFIR fuel dissolution was evaluated using the experimental data. The predicted H2 concentration in the dissolver offgas stream was compared with 60% of the calculated H2 LFL at 200 °C using several prototypical experiments. The calculations showed that a full HFIR core can be dissolved using nominally 0.002 M Hg to catalyze the dissolution. The margin between the predicted H2 concentration and the calculated LFL was greater when the solution was allowed to boil for 45 min prior to initiating the Hg addition. When the Hg was increased to 0.004 M, the predicted H2 concentration exceeded the calculated LFL early in the dissolution. The dissolution experiments also demonstrated that additional Hg (beyond the initial 0.002 M) could be added as the Al concentration increases. The ability to add more Hg during a HFIR fuel dissolution could be beneficial if slow dissolution rates are observed at high Al concentrations. Experimental data were used to demonstrate that the predicted H2 concentration in a dissolver was below 60% of the calculated LFL at 200 °C when 0.004 M Hg was used to catalyze the dissolution if the Al concentration is conservatively greater than 0.5 M. Data also show that the Hg concentration during a HFIR fuel dissolution can be increased from 0.002 to 0.008 M at an Al concentration of 1.3 M.« less
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  1. Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River National Lab. (SRNL)
Publication Date:
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Savannah River Site (SRS), Aiken, SC (United States). Savannah River National Lab. (SRNL)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Environmental Management (EM)
Country of Publication:
United States