The co-decontamination (CoDCon) project was established in FY 2016 with the objectives of (a) evaluating the uncertainty in the uranium (U)/plutonium (Pu) ratio in a mixed U/Pu product from a tributyl phosphate (TBP)–based solvent extraction flowsheet, and (b) developing and demonstrating on-line optical spectroscopy for real-time monitoring of key components (e.g., Pu, U, and HNO3 concentrations) in the process solutions. We were interested in assessing the accuracy and precision to which a specific uranium-to-plutonium (U/Pu) ratio can be achieved, which for the purposes of this project was set at a U/Pu mass ratio of 7/3. The uncertainty associated with achieving this specific target U/Pu ratio was investigated during five flowsheet tests using laboratory-scale solvent extraction equipment. In addition, optical spectroscopic techniques were incorporated into the CoDCon solvent extraction testing system, allowing real time monitoring of all input and output process streams.
Two CoDCon flowsheet tests were performed in FY 2018 using a simple dissolved fuel simulant containing only U (~1 M) and Pu (~15 mM) in nitric acid (HNO3; ~3 M). In FY 2019, two additional flowsheet tests were performed. For the first of these (CoDCon Run 3), the dissolved fuel simulant was similar to that used in the first two tests, with the inclusion of 1 mM neptunium (Np). The second test conducted in FY 2019 (CoDCon Run 4) used a more representative dissolved fuel simulant, including addition of non-radioactive fission product elements. A fifth CoDCon flowsheet test (CoDCon Run 5) was conducted in FY 2020, with the following additional objectives: (1) routing of the technetium (Tc) in the simulated dissolved fuel solution to the solvent extraction raffinate, and (2) routing of the Np in the simulated dissolved fuel solution to the U/Pu product.
All tests used a bank of sixteen 2 cm centrifugal contactors. The tests involved first loading the solvent (30 vol% TBP dissolved in n-dodecane) with U and Pu (and Np, for Run 5), then the Pu (and Np) was stripped from the loaded solvent with a U(IV) solution (~50 mM) and the flowsheet conditions were adjusted such that some U partitioned into the Pu-containing product stream. The amount of U accompanying the Pu was monitored in real time using optical spectroscopic techniques coupled with chemometric modeling. Based on the real-time spectroscopic measurement of the U/Pu ratio, adjustments were made to the flowrate of the fresh TBP solvent phase used to scrub U from the aqueous Pu-containing product. This proved to be a very effective way to control the U/Pu mass ratio in the product.
This report presents the results of the CoDCon Run 5 test. The flowsheet tested in Run 5 was substantially different than that run in the prior tests, especially the solvent loading section of the flowsheet. Two key changes were made. First, based on the objective to extract all the Np and route it with the U/Pu product, pentavalent vanadium [V(V)] was added to the feed and scrub solutions. The purpose of the V(V) was to convert all the Np to the +6 oxidation state, which is extractable by TBP. Second, a high acid (8 M HNO3) scrub was added to the flowsheet to scrub the Tc from the solvent. This was followed by a low acid scrub (0.05 M HNO3) to reduce the residual HNO3 concentration in the solvent prior to the Pu stripping step. The output from the low acid scrub was collected separately, rather than routing towards the raffinate.
The modifications to the solvent loading part of the flowsheet were only partially successful. The treatment with V(V) was effective at converting the Np to Np(VI). Only 1.3% of the Np remained in the raffinate solution. However, ~40% of the Np stripped out of the solvent in the low acid scrub step; nearly 20% of the Pu also was stripped from the solvent during the low acid scrub. For further development, either modifications to the flowsheet, or concentration and recycle of the low acid stream into the
Published: February 20, 2022
Lumetta G.J., J.R. Allred, S.E. Asmussen, S.A. Bryan, J.C. Carter, G.B. Hall, and F.D. Heller, et al. 2020.CoDCon Project: Final Report Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.