skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: ASSESMENT OF IMPURITIES IN NP METAL USING DOUBLE-FOCUSING SF-ICP-MS

Abstract

In the transmutation process, minor actinides such as neptunium, americium and curium obtained from spent nuclear fuel are incorporated into new fuel that can be placed into a fast reactor, where these elements fission into products with shorter half-lives which reduces the health and safety hazards [1]. In order to better understand the all the involved processes, fundamental physical properties of actinides should be investigated, and for that reason, high-purity materials need to be produced. One of the main challenges in characterizing these materials is the lack of pure metal available for study, and lack of analytical methods to determine the purity. Trans-uranic elements are challenging to study because of the need to be handled in specialized facilities, safeguards concerns and they are not easily purchased and/or produced. High-purity Np metal is being produced at the Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) of Idaho National Laboratory (INL), in a process of direct oxide reduction developed by Squires and Lessing [2], with a target purity of 99.999%. The goal of this research is to develop methods to determine the impurities in the Np metal, with detection limits low enough to achieve this purity level. In this work, we have used several ICP-MSmore » and ICP OES techniques, but the focus was the method development using a recently acquired Double-Focusing Sector Field Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (SF-ICP-MS). To produce the Np metal, approximately 20 g of the neptunium oxide powder was calcined at 800 oC for 6 h in a magnesium oxide crucible, which is placed inside a stainless steel crucible, that goes into the Hot Uniaxial Press (HUP) furnace insert. After the calcining step, the Np oxide was mixed with approximately 9 g of calcium metal and 100 g of ultra-dry calcium chloride. The HUP furnace was heated in a ramp rate of 50 oC min -1 up to 1000 oC. When the reaction mixture reached 850 oC, a tantalum stirrer was activated at 100 rpm. After the tantalum stirrer was removed and the mixture cooled overnight, the MgO crucible was opened with a hammer and chisel to retrieve the Np metal button at the bottom of the reaction mixture [2]. Prior to the dissolution process, the surface contaminants of the sample were removed. The Np button was washed in 10 mL of ultra-pure water for 1 min, with a faint reaction observed on the surface, indicating the presence of Ca metal. The water-washed sample was placed in a tube with 2 M HCl for only 3 s, as a vigorous reaction in the button surface was observed. The leachates were saved for further analysis. The sample was then rinsed with ultra-pure water and air-dried prior to dissolution. The cleaned sample was placed in a PTFE beaker and 25 mL of 6 M HCl and 150 µL of 24 M HF were added. After 10 minutes of reaction, the beaker was placed on a hot plate for 1 h and 30 min, followed by the addition of 1 mL of 16 M HNO3 and allowed to react for a further 1 h and 20 min. The sample was removed from heat and 10 mL of HNO3 16 M was added to react with the HCl. The beaker was covered and left for overnight reaction, producing a solution with approximately 20 mL of final volume. A Quadrupole Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (Q-ICP-MS, Perkin Elmer ELAN DRC II Q-ICP-MS) was used to obtain qualitative mass spectra for the dissolution blank, each of the leachates and the dissolved sample. In the water leachate spectrum mainly Ca and Mg were observed, while the acid wash had a similar peak pattern to the one observed for the Np metal sample, indicating that the process not only removed surface contamination, but also reacted with the sample itself. In the Np material spectrum, Ta and actinides were identified as candidates for major contaminants, as the most intense peaks corresponded to the mass-to-charge ratios of these elements. Minor contaminants included Al, Au, Ca, Cr, Fe, I, Na, Nb, Pb, Sn, Ti, Tl, V, Y. The presence of impurities in the material could have originated from several sources, such as the materials used for the casting process, the use of impure NpO2 or contamination of reagents and materials used for the analysis. Some of the isotopes listed as potential contaminants are susceptible to spectral interferences, so Double-Focusing SF-ICP-MS (Nu Instruments Attom ES HR-ICP-MS) was used for the quantitative analysis. For each isotope determined, several items were evaluated: raw signal of a blank solution, sensitivity and determination coefficient of calibration curves, possibility of interferences and comparison of results obtained for at least two resolving powers (RP): 300 and 4000. The evaluation of the signal in a blank solution can indicate if a spectral interference from the plasma gas and/or the solvent was successfully resolved (commonly observed for 52Cr+/40Ar12C+, for example). It is important to highlight that a signal reduction is expected when a higher RP is used, as the ion beam transmission is decreased by the use of na« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Idaho National Laboratory
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Idaho National Lab. (INL), Idaho Falls, ID (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy (ARPA-E)
OSTI Identifier:
1572078
Report Number(s):
INL/CON-19-56152-Rev000
DOE Contract Number:  
DE-AC07-05ID14517
Resource Type:
Conference
Resource Relation:
Conference: 2020 Winter Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry, Tucson, AZ, 01/12/2020 - 01/18/2020
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
37 - INORGANIC, ORGANIC, PHYSICAL AND ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY; ICP-MS; neptunium; actinides; high-purity material

Citation Formats

Gimenes Rodrigues Albuquerque, Luiza, Barker, Beau J, and Squires, Leah N. ASSESMENT OF IMPURITIES IN NP METAL USING DOUBLE-FOCUSING SF-ICP-MS. United States: N. p., 2019. Web.
Gimenes Rodrigues Albuquerque, Luiza, Barker, Beau J, & Squires, Leah N. ASSESMENT OF IMPURITIES IN NP METAL USING DOUBLE-FOCUSING SF-ICP-MS. United States.
Gimenes Rodrigues Albuquerque, Luiza, Barker, Beau J, and Squires, Leah N. Thu . "ASSESMENT OF IMPURITIES IN NP METAL USING DOUBLE-FOCUSING SF-ICP-MS". United States. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1572078.
@article{osti_1572078,
title = {ASSESMENT OF IMPURITIES IN NP METAL USING DOUBLE-FOCUSING SF-ICP-MS},
author = {Gimenes Rodrigues Albuquerque, Luiza and Barker, Beau J and Squires, Leah N},
abstractNote = {In the transmutation process, minor actinides such as neptunium, americium and curium obtained from spent nuclear fuel are incorporated into new fuel that can be placed into a fast reactor, where these elements fission into products with shorter half-lives which reduces the health and safety hazards [1]. In order to better understand the all the involved processes, fundamental physical properties of actinides should be investigated, and for that reason, high-purity materials need to be produced. One of the main challenges in characterizing these materials is the lack of pure metal available for study, and lack of analytical methods to determine the purity. Trans-uranic elements are challenging to study because of the need to be handled in specialized facilities, safeguards concerns and they are not easily purchased and/or produced. High-purity Np metal is being produced at the Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) of Idaho National Laboratory (INL), in a process of direct oxide reduction developed by Squires and Lessing [2], with a target purity of 99.999%. The goal of this research is to develop methods to determine the impurities in the Np metal, with detection limits low enough to achieve this purity level. In this work, we have used several ICP-MS and ICP OES techniques, but the focus was the method development using a recently acquired Double-Focusing Sector Field Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (SF-ICP-MS). To produce the Np metal, approximately 20 g of the neptunium oxide powder was calcined at 800 oC for 6 h in a magnesium oxide crucible, which is placed inside a stainless steel crucible, that goes into the Hot Uniaxial Press (HUP) furnace insert. After the calcining step, the Np oxide was mixed with approximately 9 g of calcium metal and 100 g of ultra-dry calcium chloride. The HUP furnace was heated in a ramp rate of 50 oC min -1 up to 1000 oC. When the reaction mixture reached 850 oC, a tantalum stirrer was activated at 100 rpm. After the tantalum stirrer was removed and the mixture cooled overnight, the MgO crucible was opened with a hammer and chisel to retrieve the Np metal button at the bottom of the reaction mixture [2]. Prior to the dissolution process, the surface contaminants of the sample were removed. The Np button was washed in 10 mL of ultra-pure water for 1 min, with a faint reaction observed on the surface, indicating the presence of Ca metal. The water-washed sample was placed in a tube with 2 M HCl for only 3 s, as a vigorous reaction in the button surface was observed. The leachates were saved for further analysis. The sample was then rinsed with ultra-pure water and air-dried prior to dissolution. The cleaned sample was placed in a PTFE beaker and 25 mL of 6 M HCl and 150 µL of 24 M HF were added. After 10 minutes of reaction, the beaker was placed on a hot plate for 1 h and 30 min, followed by the addition of 1 mL of 16 M HNO3 and allowed to react for a further 1 h and 20 min. The sample was removed from heat and 10 mL of HNO3 16 M was added to react with the HCl. The beaker was covered and left for overnight reaction, producing a solution with approximately 20 mL of final volume. A Quadrupole Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (Q-ICP-MS, Perkin Elmer ELAN DRC II Q-ICP-MS) was used to obtain qualitative mass spectra for the dissolution blank, each of the leachates and the dissolved sample. In the water leachate spectrum mainly Ca and Mg were observed, while the acid wash had a similar peak pattern to the one observed for the Np metal sample, indicating that the process not only removed surface contamination, but also reacted with the sample itself. In the Np material spectrum, Ta and actinides were identified as candidates for major contaminants, as the most intense peaks corresponded to the mass-to-charge ratios of these elements. Minor contaminants included Al, Au, Ca, Cr, Fe, I, Na, Nb, Pb, Sn, Ti, Tl, V, Y. The presence of impurities in the material could have originated from several sources, such as the materials used for the casting process, the use of impure NpO2 or contamination of reagents and materials used for the analysis. Some of the isotopes listed as potential contaminants are susceptible to spectral interferences, so Double-Focusing SF-ICP-MS (Nu Instruments Attom ES HR-ICP-MS) was used for the quantitative analysis. For each isotope determined, several items were evaluated: raw signal of a blank solution, sensitivity and determination coefficient of calibration curves, possibility of interferences and comparison of results obtained for at least two resolving powers (RP): 300 and 4000. The evaluation of the signal in a blank solution can indicate if a spectral interference from the plasma gas and/or the solvent was successfully resolved (commonly observed for 52Cr+/40Ar12C+, for example). It is important to highlight that a signal reduction is expected when a higher RP is used, as the ion beam transmission is decreased by the use of na},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {10}
}

Conference:
Other availability
Please see Document Availability for additional information on obtaining the full-text document. Library patrons may search WorldCat to identify libraries that hold this conference proceeding.

Save / Share: