Plutonium chemistry
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Plutonium Chemistry. Isotopes from 228≤A≤247 Important isotopes 238 Pu 237 Np(n, g ) 238 Np 238 Pu from beta decay of 238 Np Separated from unreacted Np by ion exchange Decay of 242 Cm 0.57 W/g Power source for space exploration 83.5 % 238 Pu, chemical form as dioxide

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Plutonium Chemistry

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Plutonium chemistry

Plutonium Chemistry

  • Isotopes from 228≤A≤247

  • Important isotopes

    • 238Pu

      • 237Np(n,g)238Np

        • 238Pu from beta decay of 238Np

        • Separated from unreacted Np by ion exchange

      • Decay of 242Cm

      • 0.57 W/g

      • Power source for space exploration

        • 83.5 % 238Pu, chemical form as dioxide

        • Enriched 16O to limit neutron emission

          • 6000 n s-1g-1

          • 0.418 W/g PuO2

      • 150 g PuO2 in Ir-0.3 % W container

  • From: Chemistry of actinides

    • Nuclear properties and isotope production

    • Pu in nature

    • Separation and Purification

    • Atomic properties

    • Metallic state

    • Compounds

    • Solution chemistry


Pu nuclear properties

Pu nuclear properties

  • 239Pu

    • 2.2E-3 W/g

    • Basis of formation of higher Pu isotopes

    • 244-246Pu first from nuclear test

  • Higher isotopes available

    • Longer half lives suitable for experiments

  • Most environmental Pu due to anthropogenic sources

  • 239,244Pu can be found in nature

    • 239Pu from nuclear processes occurring in U ore

      • n,g reaction

        • Neutrons from

          • SF of U

          • neutron multiplication in 235U

          • a,n on light elements

        • 24.2 fission/g U/hr, need to include neutrons from 235U

  • 244Pu

    • Based on Xe isotopic ratios

      • SF of 244Pu

    • 1E-18 g 244Pu/g bastnasite mineral


Pu solution chemistry

Pu solution chemistry

  • Originally driven by the need to separate and purify Pu

  • Species data in thermodynamic database

  • Complicated solution chemistry

    • Five oxidation states (III to VII)

      • Small energy separations between oxidation states

      • All states can be prepared

        • Pu(III) and (IV) more stable in acidic solutions

        • Pu(V) in near neutral solutions

          • Dilute Pu solutions favored

        • Pu(VI) and (VII) favored in basic solutions

          • Pu(VII) stable only in highly basic solutions and strong oxidizing conditions

    • Some evidence of Pu(VIII)


Pu solution spectroscopy

Pu solution spectroscopy

  • A few sharp bands

    • 5f-5f transitions

      • More intense than 4f of lanthanides

      • Relativistic effects accentuate spin-orbit coupling

      • Transitions observed spectroscopically

        • Forbidden transitions

        • Sharp but not very intense

  • Pu absorption bands in visible and near IR region

    • Characteristic for each oxidation state


Pu hydrolysis colloid formation

Pu Hydrolysis/colloid formation


Pu solution chemistry1

Pu solution chemistry

  • Nitrates

    • Bidentate and planar geometry

      • Similar to carbonates but much weaker ligand

    • 1 or more nitrates in inner sphere

  • Peroxide

    • No confirmed structure

    • Pu2(m-O2)2(CO3)68- contains doubly bridged Pu-O core

  • Halides

    • Studies related to Pu separation and metal formation

    • Solid phase double salts discussed


Pu separations

Pu separations

  • 1855 MT Pu produced

    • Current rate of 70-75 MT/years

    • 225 MT for fuel cycle

    • 260 MT for weapons

  • Large scale separations based on manipulation of Pu oxidation state

    • Aqueous (PUREX)

    • Non-aqueous (Pyroprocessing)

  • Precipitation methods

    • Basis of bismuth phosphate separation

      • Precipitation of BiPO4 in acid carries tri- and tetravalent actinides

        • Bismuth nitrate and phosphoric acid

        • Separation of solid, then oxidation to Pu(VI)

      • Sulfuric acid forms solution U sulfate, preventing precipitation

    • Used after initial purification methods

    • LaF3 for precipitation of trivalent and tetravalent actinides


Metallic pu

Metallic Pu

  • Interests in processing-structure-properties relationship

  • Reactions with water and oxygen

  • Impact of self-irradiation

Formation of Pu metal

  • Ca reduction

  • Pyroprocessing

    • PuF4 and Ca metal

      • Conversion of oxide to fluoride

      • Start at 600 ºC goes to 2000 ºC

      • Pu solidifies at bottom of crucible

    • Direct oxide reduction

      • Direct reduction of oxide with Ca metal

      • PuO2, Ca, and CaCl2

    • Molten salt extraction

      • Separation of Pu from Am and lanthanides

      • Oxidize Am to Am3+, remains in salt phase

      • MgCl2 as oxidizing agent

        • Oxidation of Pu and Am, formation of Mg

        • Reduction of Pu by oxidation of Am metal


Pu metal

Pu metal

  • Electrorefining

    • Liquid Pu oxidizes from anode ingot into salt electrode

    • 740 ºC in NaCl/KCl with MgCl2 as oxidizing agent

      • Oxidation to Pu(III)

      • Addition of current causes reduction of Pu(III) at cathode

      • Pu drips off cathode

  • Zone refining (700-1000 ºC)

    • Purification from trace impurities

      • Fe, U, Mg, Ca, Ni, Al, K, Si, oxides and hydrides

    • Melt zone passes through Pu metal at a slow rate

      • Impurities travel in same or opposite direction of melt direction

    • Vacuum distillation removes Am

    • Application of magnetic field levitates Pu

http://arq.lanl.gov/source/orgs/nmt/nmtdo/AQarchive/98fall/magnetic_levitation.html


Metallic pu1

Metallic Pu

  • Pu liquid is denser that 3 highest temperature solid phases

    • Liquid density at 16.65 g/mL

    • Pu contracts 2.5 % upon melting

  • Pu alloys and the d phase

    • Ga stabilizes phase

    • Complicated phase diagram


Plutonium chemistry

Phase never observed, slow kinetics


Metallic pu2

Metallic Pu

  • Electronic structure shows competition between itinerant and localized behavior

    • Boundary between magnetic and superconductivity

    • 5f electrons 2 to 4 eV bands, strong mixing

      • Polymorphism

      • Solid state instability

      • Catalytic activity

  • Isolated Pu 7s25f6, metallic Pu 7s26d15f5

    • Lighter than Pu, addition f electron goes into conducting band

    • Starting at Am f electrons become localized

      • Increase in atomic volume


Plutonium chemistry

Pu phase transitions

demonstrates change in f-electron behavior at Pu


Relativistic effects

Relativistic effects

  • bandwidth narrows with increasing orbital angular momentum

    • Larger bands increase probability of electrons moving

      • d and f electrons interact more with core electrons

  • Narrowing reflects

    • decreasing radial extent of orbitals with higher angular momentum, or equivalently

    • decrease in overlap between neighboring atoms

  • Enough f electrons in Pu to be significant

    • Relativistic effects are important

  • 5f electrons extend relatively far from nucleus compared to the 4f electrons

    • 5f electrons participate in chemical bonding

  • much-greater radial extent of the probability densities for 7s and 7p valence states compared with 5f valence states

  • 5f and 6d radial distributions extend farther than shown by nonrelativistic calculations

  • 7s and 7p distributions are pulled closer to ionic cores in relativistic calculations


Arrhenius curves for oxidation of unalloyed and alloyed plutonium in dry air and water vapor

Arrhenius Curves for Oxidation of Unalloyed and Alloyed Plutonium in Dry Air and Water Vapor

  • ln of the reaction rate R versus 1/T

    • slope of each curve is proportional to the activation energy for the corrosion reaction

  • Curve 1 oxidation rate of unalloyed plutonium in dry air or dry O2 at a pressure of 0.21 bar.

  • Curve 2a increase in the oxidation rate when unalloyed metal is exposed to water vapor up to 0.21 bar, equal to the partial pressure of oxygen in air

  • Curves 2b and 2c show the moisture-enhanced oxidation rate at water vapor pressure of 0.21 bar in temperature ranges of 61°C–110°C and 110°C–200°C, respectively

  • Curves 1’ and 2’ oxidation rates for the δ-phase gallium-stabilized alloy in dry air and moist air (water vapor pressure ≤ 0.21 bar), respectively

  • Curve 3 transition region between the convergence of rates at 400°C and the onset of the autothermic reaction at 500°C

  • Curve 4 temperature-independent reaction rate of ignited metal or alloy under static conditions

    • rate is fixed by diffusion through an O2-depleted boundary layer of N2 at the gas-solid interface

  • Curve 5 temperature-dependent oxidation rate of ignited droplets of metal or alloy during free fall in air


Oxide layer on plutonium metal under varying conditions

Oxide Layer on Plutonium Metal under Varying Conditions

  • corrosion rate is strongly dependent on the metal temperature

    • varies significantly with the isotopic composition,quantity, geometry, and storage configuration

  • steady-state oxide layer on plutonium in dry air at room temperature (25°C) is shown at the top

    • (a) Over time, isolating PuO2-coated metal from oxygen in a vacuum or an inert environment turns the surface oxide into Pu2O3 by the autoreduction reaction

    • At 25°C, the transformation is slow

    • time required for complete reduction of PuO2 depends on the initial thickness of PuO2 layer

      • highly uncertain because reaction kinetics are not quantified

  • above 150°C, rapid autoreduction transforms a several micrometer-thick PuO2 layer to Pu2O3 within minutes

    • (b) Exposure of the steady-state oxide layer to air results in continued oxidation of the metal

  • Kinetic data indicate that a one-year exposure to dry air at room temperature increases the oxide thickness by about 0.1 μm

  • At a metal temperature of 50°C in moist air (50% relative humidity), the corrosion rate increases by a factor of approximately 104

    • corrosion front advances into unalloyed metal at a rate of 2 mm per year

  • 150°C–200°C in dry air, the rate of the autoreduction reaction increases relative to that of the oxidation reaction

    • steady-state condition in the oxide shifts toward Pu2O3,


Rates for catalyzed reactions of pu with h 2 o 2 and air

Rates for Catalyzed Reactions of Pu with H2, O2, and Air

  • Diffusion-limited oxidation data shown in gray compared to data for the rates of reactions catalyzed by surface compounds

  • oxidation rates of PuHx-coated metal or alloy in air

  • the hydriding rates of PuHx- or Pu2O3-coated metal or alloy at 1 bar of pressure,

  • oxidation rates of PuHx-coated metal or alloy in O2

  • rates are extremely rapid,

  • values are constant

    • indicate the surface compounds act as catalysts


Hydride catalyzed oxidation of pu

Hydride-Catalyzed Oxidation of Pu

  • After the hydride-coated metal or alloy is exposed to O2, oxidation of the pyrophoric PuHxforms a surface layer of oxide and heat

  • H2 formed by the reaction moves into and through the hydride layer to reform PuHx at the hydride-metal interface

  • sequential processes in reaction

    • oxygen adsorbs at the gas-solid interface as O2

    • O2 dissociates and enters the oxide lattice as an anionic species

    • thin steady-state layer of PuO2 may exist at the surface

    • oxide ions are transported across the oxide layer to the oxide-hydride interface

      • oxide may be Pu2O3 or PuO2–x (0< x <0.5

    • Oxygen reacts with PuHx to form heat (~160 kcal/mol of Pu) and H2

  • H2 produced at the oxide-hydride interface moves

  • through the PuHx layer to the hydride-metal interface

  • reaction of hydrogen with Pu produces PuH2 and heat


Pu oxide

Pu oxide

  • Pu storage, fuel, and power generators

  • Important species

    • Corrosion

    • Environmental behavior

  • Different Pu oxide solid phases

    • PuO

    • Pu2O3

      • Composition at 60 % O

      • Different forms at PuOx

        • x=1.52, bcc

        • x=1.61, bcc

    • PuO2

      • fcc, wide composition range (1.6 <x<2)


Pu oxide preparation

Pu oxide preparation

  • Pu2O3

    • Hexagonal (A-Pu2O3) and cubic (C-Pu2O3)

      • Distinct phases that can co-exist

      • No observed phase transformation

        • Kinetic behavior may influence phase formation of cubic phase

          • C-Pu2O3 forms on PuO2 of d-stabilied metal when heated to 150-200 °C under vacuum

          • Metal and dioxide fcc, favors formation of fcc Pu2O3

          • Requires heating to 450 °C to produce hexagonal form

          • Not the same transition temperature for reverse reaction

          • Indication of kinetic effect

    • Formed by reaction of PuO2 with Pu metal, dry H2, or C

      • A-Pu2O3 formed

      • PuO2+Pu2Pu2O3 at 1500 °C in Ta crucible

        • Excess Pu metal removed by sublimation

      • 2PuO2+CPu2O3 + CO


Pu oxide preparation1

Pu oxide preparation

  • Hyperstoichiometricsesquioxide (PuO1.6+x)

    • Requires fast quenching to produce of PuO2 in melt

      • Slow cooling resulting in C-Pu2O3 and PuO2-x

      • x at 0.02 and 0.03

  • Substoichiometric PuO2-x

    • From PuO1.61 to PuO1.98

      • Exact composition depends upon O2 partial pressure

    • Single phase materials

      • Lattice expands with decreasing O


Pu oxide preparation2

Pu oxide preparation

  • PuO2

    • Pu metal ignited in air

    • Calcination of a number of Pu compounds

      • No phosphates

      • Pu crystalline PuO2 formed by heating Pu(III) or Pu(IV) oxalate to 1000 °C in air

        • Oxalates of Pu(III) forms a powder, Pu(IV) is tacky solid

      • Rate of heating can effect composition due to decomposition and gas evolution

    • PuO2 is olive green

      • Can vary due to particle size, impurities

    • Pressed and sintered for heat sources or fuel

    • Sol-gel method

      • Nitrate in acid injected into dehydrating organic (2-ethylcyclohexanol)

      • Formation of microspheres

        • Sphere size effects color


U pu oxides

U-Pu-Oxides

  • MOX fuel

    • 2-30 % PuO2

  • Lattice follows Vegard’s law

  • Different regions

    • Orthorhombic U3O8 phase

    • Flourite dioxide

      • Deviations from Vegard’s law may be observed from O loss from PuO2 at higher temperature


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