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Radiochemistry in reactor. Readings: Radiochemistry in Light Water Reactors, Chapter 3 Speciation in irradiated fuel Utilization of resulting isotopics Fission Product Chemistry Fuel confined in reactor to fuel region Potential for interaction with cladding material

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Radiochemistry in reactor
Radiochemistry in reactor

  • Readings: Radiochemistry in Light Water Reactors, Chapter 3

  • Speciation in irradiated fuel

  • Utilization of resulting isotopics

  • Fission Product Chemistry

  • Fuel confined in reactor to fuel region

    • Potential for interaction with cladding material

      • Initiate stress corrosion cracking

    • Chemical knowledge useful in events where fuel is outside of cladding

  • Some radionuclides generated in structural material

Fission process
Fission process

  • Recoil length about 10 microns, diameter of 6 nm

    • About size of UO2 crystal

    • 95 % of energy into stopping power

      • Remainder into lattice defects

        • Radiation induced creep

    • High local temperature from fission

      • 3300 K in 10 nm diameter

  • Delayed neutron fission products

    • 0.75 % of total neutrons

      • 137-139I and 87-90Br as examples

  • Some neutron capture of fission products


  • Measure of extracted energy

    • Fraction of fuel atoms that underwent fission

      • %FIMA (fissions per initial metal atom)

    • Actual energy released per mass of initial fuel

      • Gigawatt-days/metric ton heavy metal (GWd/MTHM)

      • Megawatt-days/kg heavy metal (MWd/kgHM)

  • Burnup relationship

    • Plant thermal power times days divided by the mass of the initial fuel loading

    • Converting between percent and energy/mass by using energy released per fission event.

      • typical value is 200 MeV/fission

      • 100 % burnup around 1000 GWd/MTHM

  • Determine burnup

    • Find residual concentrations of fissile nuclides after irradiation

      • Burnup from difference between final and initial values

      • Need to account for neutron capture on fissile nuclides

    • Find fission product concentration in fuel

      • Need suitable half-life

      • Need knowledge of nuclear data

        • cumulative fission yield, neutron capture cross section

      • Simple analytical procedure

      • 137Cs(some migration issues) 142Nd(stable isotope), 152Eu are suitable fission products

    • Neutron detection also used

      • Need to minimize 244Cm

Radionuclides in fresh fuel
Radionuclides in fresh fuel

  • Actual Pu isotopics in MOX fuel may vary

    • Activity dominated by other Pu isotopes

    • Ingrowth of 241Am

    • MOX fuel fabrication in glove boxes

Fuel variation during irradiation
Fuel variation during irradiation

  • Chemical composition

  • Radionuclide inventory

  • Pellet structure

  • Higher concentrations of Ru, Rh, and Pd in Pu fuel

  • Total activity of fuel effected by saturation

    • Tends to reach maximum

  • Radionuclide fuel distribution studied

    • Fission gas release

    • Axial distribution by gamma scanning

    • Radial distribution to evaluate flux

Fission products for mox fuel
Fission products for MOX fuel

  • Pu fuel has higher concentrations of:

    • Ru, Rh, Pd

  • Fission product behavior varies

    • capture

Distribution in fuel
Distribution in fuel

  • Axial fission product distribution corresponds very closely to the time-averaged neutron flux distribution

    • PWR activity level in the middle

    • Activity minima from neutron shielding effect of spacer grids

      • local decrease in fission rates

    • Fuel density effects

      • Dishing at end of fuel

      • Disappear due to fuel swelling

    • BWR shows asymmetric distribution

      • Control rod positions

Distribution in fuel1
Distribution in Fuel

  • Radial distribution of fission products mainly governed by thermal neutron flux profile .

  • Higher Pu concentration in outer zone of fuel

    • Epithermal neutron capture on 238U

    • Small influence of thermal migration on Cs

      • Gaseous and volatile fission products

      • Influence by fuel initial composition (O to M ratio)

    • Xe trapped in region with high gas bubble density

Transuranics on fuel rim

Distribution in fuel2

Increased Pu leads to increased fission product density

Xe behavior influenced by bubble gas location

Consumption of burnable poison

Gd isotopes 157 and 155 depleted in outer zone

Distribution in Fuel

Distribution in fuel thermal behavior
Distribution in fuel: Thermal behavior

  • Mainly affects the gaseous and the volatile fission products

    • linear heat rating

    • pellet temperatures during reactor operation

    • stoichiometry of the fuel

  • Halogens and alkali elements

    • Cs and I volatility

      • High fission yields

      • Enhanced mobility

    • Can be treated similarly, different chemical behavior

Iodine and cs
Iodine and Cs

  • CsI added to UO2

    • Both elements have same maximum location at 1000 °C

  • UO2+x

    • Iodine property changes, mobility to lower temperature regions

      • Elemental I2 rather than I-

  • Formation in the range of x to 0.02

  • No change in Cs chemistry as it remains monovalent

Iodine and cs1
Iodine and Cs

  • release of cesium and iodine from fuel at 1100 to 1300 K

  • release rates increase with increasing temperature

    • 2100 K largest fraction released after 60 seconds

  • Both elements released at significantly faster rate from higher-burnup fuel

    • Different release mechanism

  • attributed to fission product atoms which already migrated to grain boundaries

    • UO2 lattice difficulty in incorporating large atomic radii ions

Perovskite phase a 2 b 4 o 3
Perovskite phase (A2+B4+O3)

  • Most fission products homogeneously distributed in UO2 matrix

  • With increasing fission product concentration formation of secondary phases possible

    • Exceed solubility limits in UO2

  • Perovskite identified oxide phase

    • U, Pu, Ba, Sr, Cs, Zr, Mo, and Lanthanides

    • Mono- and divalent elements at A

  • Mechanism of formation

    • Sr and Zr form phases

    • Lanthanides added at high burnup

Epsilon phase
Epsilon phase

  • Metallic phase of fission products in fuel

    • Mo (24-43 wt %)

    • Tc (8-16 wt %)

    • Ru (27-52 wt %)

    • Rh (4-10 wt %)

    • Pd (4-10 wt %)

  • Grain sizes around 1 micron

  • Concentration nearly linear with fuel burnup

    • 5 g/kg at 10MWd/kg U

    • 15 g/kg at 40 MWd/kg U

Epsilon phase1
Epsilon Phase

  • Formation of metallic phase promoted by higher linear heat

    • high Pd concentrations (20 wt %)indicate a relatively low fuel temperature

    • Mo behavior controlled by oxygen potential

      • High metallic Mo indicates O:M of 2

      • O:M above 2, more Mo in UO2 lattice

Relative partial molar Gibbs free energy of oxygen of the fission product oxides and UO2

Grouping of behavior
Grouping of behavior

  • Experiments performed between 1450 and 1825 °C

    • trace-irradiated UO2 fuel material

    • Limit formation of fission products compounds

  • 4 categories

  • Elements with highest electronegativities have highest mobilities

    • Te, I

  • Low valentcations and low fuel solubility

    • Cs, Ba

  • Neutral species with low solubility

    • Xe, Ru, Tc

    • Similar behavior to low valentcations

    • (xenon, ruthenium,

  • polyvalent elements were not released from fuel

    • Nd, La, Zr, Np

  • Ions with high charges and dimension of fuel remain in UO2

  • Neutral atoms or monovalent fission products are mobile in fuel fission products

    • Evident at higher temperatures

      • higher fuel rod heat ratings

      • accident conditions

Radionuclide inventories
Radionuclide Inventories

  • Fission Products

    • generally short lived (except 135Cs, 129I)

    • ß,emitters

    • geochemical behavior varies

  • Activation Products

    • Formed by neutron capture (60Co)

    • ß,emitters

    • Lighter than fission products

    • can include some environmentally important elements (C,N)

  • Actinides

    • alpha emitters, long lived

Fission products general chemistry
Fission products: General chemistry

  • Kr, Xe

    • Inert gases

    • Xe has high neutron capture cross section

  • Lanthanides

    • Similar to Am and Cm chemistry

    • High neutron capture cross sections

  • Tc

    • Redox state (Tc4+, TcO4-)

  • I

    • Anionic

    • 129I long lived isotope

Cesium and strontium
Cesium and Strontium

  • High yield from fission

  • Both beta

    • Some half-lives similar

  • Similar chemistry

    • Limited oxidation states

    • Complexation

    • Reactions

  • Can be separated or treated together


  • Group 1 metal ions form oxides

    • M2O, MOH

  • Cs forms higher ordered chloride complexes

  • Cs perchlorate insoluble in water

  • Tetraphenylborate complexes of Cs are insoluble

    • Degradation of ligand occurs

  • Forms complexes with ß-diketones

  • Crown ethers complex Cs

  • Cobalthexamine can be used to extract Cs

  • Zeolites complex group 1 metals

  • In environment, clay minerals complex group 1 metal ions

Group 2 elements
Group 2 Elements

  • 2nd group of elements

    • Be, Mg, Ca, Sr, Ba, Ra

    • Two s electron outside noble gas core

    • Chemistry dictated by +2 cation

      • no other cations known or expected

    • Most bonding is ionic in nature

      • Charge, not sharing of electron

    • For elemental series the following decrease

      • melting of metals

        • Mg is the lowest

      • ease of carbonate decomposition

      • Charge/ionic radius ratio


  • Group 2 metal ions form oxides

    • MO, M(OH)2

  • Less polarizable than group 1 elements

  • Fluorides are hydroscopic

    • Ionic complexes with all halides

  • Carbonates somewhat insoluble in water

  • CaSO4 is also insoluble (Gypsum)

  • Nitrates can form from fuming nitric acid

  • Mg and Ca can form complexes in solution

  • Zeolites complex group 2 metals

  • In environment, clay minerals complex group 2 metal ions


  • Electronic configuration of neutral, gaseous Tc atoms in the ground

  • [Kr]4d55s2 [l] with the term symbol 6S5/2

  • Range of oxidation states

    • TcO4-, TcO2

  • Tc chemical behavior is similar to Re

    • Both elements differ from Mn

  • Tc atomic radius of 1.358 Å

    • 0.015 Å smaller than Re


  • Tc and Re often form compounds of analogous composition and only slightly differing properties

    • Compounds frequently isostructural

    • Tc compounds appear to be more easily reduced than analogous Re species

    • Tc compounds frequently more reactive than Re analogues

  • 7 valence electrons are available for bonding

    • formal oxidation states from +7 to -1 have been synthesized

  • Potentials of the couples TcO4-/TcO2 and TcO4/Tc are intermediate between those of Mn and Re

    • TcO4 – is a weakoxidizing agent


  • Electronic structure of the lanthanides tend to be [Xe]6s24fn

  • ions have the configuration [Xe]4fm

  • Lanthanide chemistry differs from main group and transition elements due to filling of 4f orbitals

    • 4f electrons are localized

      • Hard acid metals

        • Actinides are softer, basis of separations

    • Lanthanide chemistry dictated by ionic radius

      • Contraction across lanthanides

        • 102 pm (La3+) to 86 pm (Lu3+),

      • Ce3+ can oxidized Ce4+

      • Eu3+ can reduce to Eu2+ with the f7 configuration which has the extra stability of a half-filled shell


  • Difficult to separate lanthanides due to similarity in ionic radius

    • Multistep processes

    • Crystallization

    • Solvent extraction (TBP)

      • Counter current method

  • larger ions are 9-coordinate in aqueous solution

  • smaller ions are 8-coordinate

  • Complexation weak with monodentate ligands

    • Need to displace water

    • Stronger complexes are formed with chelating ligands


  • How is uranium chemistry linked with chemistry in fuel

  • What are the main oxidation states of the fission products and actinides in fuel

  • What drives the speciation of actinides and fission products in fuel

  • How is volatility linked with fission product chemistry

  • What are general trends in fission product chemistry


  • What drives the speciation of actinides and fission products in spent nuclear fuel?

  • What would be the difference between oxide and metallic fuel?

  • Why do the metallic phases form in oxide fuel

  • How is the behavior of Tc in fuel related to the U:O stoichiometry?

Pop quiz
Pop Quiz

  • Why do the metallic phases form in oxide fuel