Nuclear Technology / Volume 148 / Number 2 / November 2004 / Pages 174-180
Technical Paper / High-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal
Interest in mechanisms that may control radioelement release from corroded commercial spent nuclear fuel (CSNF) has been heightened by the selection of the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada as the repository for high-level nuclear waste in the United States. Neptunium is an important radionuclide in repository models owing to its relatively long half-life and its high aqueous mobility as neptunyl [Np(V)O2+]. The possibility of neptunium sequestration into uranyl alteration phases produced by corroding CSNF would suggest a process for lowering neptunium concentration and subsequent migration from a geologic repository. However, there remains little experimental evidence that uranyl compounds will, in fact, serve as long-term host phases for the retention of neptunium under conditions expected in a deep geologic repository. To directly explore this possibility, we examined specimens of uranyl alteration phases derived from humid-air-corroded CSNF by X-ray absorption spectroscopy to better determine neptunium uptake in these phases. Although neptunium fluorescence was readily observed from as-received CSNF, it was not observed from the uranyl alteration rind. We establish upper limits for neptunium incorporation into CSNF alteration phases that are significantly below previously reported concentrations obtained by using electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS). We attribute the discrepancy to a plural-scattering event that creates a spurious EELS peak at the neptunium-MV energy.