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Dynamics of Spent Nuclear Fuel Dissolution

Impact of Catalysis, Matrix Composition and Time Evolution

Time: Thu 2019-12-05 10.00

Location: Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm (English)

Subject area: Chemistry

Doctoral student: Annika Carolin Maier , Tillämpad fysikalisk kemi

Opponent: Doktor Christophe Jégou, Commisariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA)

Supervisor: Professor Mats Jonsson, Kemi, Tillämpad fysikalisk kemi

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Worldwide, nuclear power produces a large portion of the electricity that we consume every day. While nuclear energy comes with certain advantages, waste originating from its use is of particular concern. As of today, most countries are planning to store spent nuclear fuel in deep geological repositories to protect humans and the environment from this highly radiotoxic waste. Through a number of natural and engineered barriers, a repository is designed to remain intact and keep the radionuclides contained for millennia to come. To assess the safety of a repository, long-term predictions based on model systems are required. Given that one day the barriers of a repository fail, groundwater intrusion is inevitable. Once spent fuel is in contact with groundwater, the mobility of radionuclides in the environment is significantly enhanced. Spent nuclear fuel is a complex material which consists to around 95 % of UO2. The remainders are fission products and heavier actinides. In this thesis a bottom up approach is used to study dissolution of UO2 based model systems with a particular focus on dissolution induced by H2O2. H2O2 forms upon water radiolysis and can enhance UO2 dissolution. The mechanism for H2O2 consumption on metals and metal oxides is therefore revisited. It was found that the mechanism for catalytic decomposition of H2O2 on Pd differs from that on metal oxides. In addition, coumarin was demonstrated to be an efficient scavenger for reaction intermediates i.e. HO . To simulate longterm dissolution under repository conditions, UO2 and Gd-doped UO2 pellets were leached to reach high H2O2 exposures. Surface passivation reducing the dissolution of UO2 pellets was found to be accompanied by the formation of an oxidized layer. Studtite, a urnayl peroxide mineral can passivate the UO2 surface under certain conditions. Upon exposure to g-radiation studtite was found to dissolve readily, inhibiting passivation of real spent fuel by this surface precipitate.