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Separation of Transmutation- and Fission-Produced Radioisotopes from Irradiated Beryllium

Troy J. Tranter, Richard D. Tillotson, Nick R. Mann, Glen R. Longhurst

Nuclear Technology / Volume 176 / Number 2 / November 2011 / Pages 290-295

Technical Paper / Decontamination/ Decommissioning

The primary objective of this study was to test the effectiveness of a two-step solvent extraction-precipitation process for separating transmutation and fission products from irradiated beryllium. Beryllium metal was dissolved in nitric and fluoroboric acids. Isotopes of 241Am, 239Pu, 85Sr, 60Co, and 137Cs were then added to make a surrogate beryllium waste solution. A series of batch contacts was performed with the spiked simulant using chlorinated cobalt dicarbollide and polyethylene glycol diluted with sulfone to extract the isotopes of Cs and Sr. Another series of batch contacts was performed using a combination of octyl (phenyl)-N,N-diisobutylcarbamoylmethylphosphine oxide in tributyl phosphate diluted with dodecane for extracting the isotopes of Pu and Am. The 60Co was separated by first forming a cobalt complex and then selectively precipitating the beryllium as a hydroxide. The results indicate that >99.9% removal can be achieved for each radionuclide. Transuranic isotope contamination levels are reduced to <100 nCi/g, and sources of high beta-gamma radiation (60Co, 137Cs, and 90Sr) are reduced to levels that will allow the beryllium to be contact handled. The separation process may be applicable to a recycle or waste disposition scenario.

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