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Characteristics of the Aerosol Produced from Burning Sodium and Plutonium

Harry J. Ettinger, William D. Moss, Harold Busey

Nuclear Science and Engineering

Volume 30 / Number 1 / October 1967 / Pages 1-13


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Safety analysis of sodium-cooled plutonium-fueled fast reactor plants must be concerned with the possibility of fires involving these materials. Design of an air cleaning system for such a facility requires basic data defining the aerosol characteristics of sodium and plutonium released during a fire. Size characteristics of the aersol produced during sodium and plutonium fires were determined for different atmospheres ranging from 20.8% oxygen, 79.2% nitrogen to 100% nitrogen. The aerosol produced by burning gram quantities of sodium was compared with that produced by a fire involving 600 lb of sodium. Sodium aerosol count median diameter ranged from 0.07 to 1.09 µ and was independent  of oxygen concentration. Small and large scale fires produced an aerosol with comparable size characteristics. Plutonium aerosol count median diameter ranged from 0.02 to 0.09 µ and was also independent of oxygen concentration. When plutonium alloy was burned under reduced oxygen conditions, the fraction airborne ranged from 2. × 10-7 to 4. × 10-6. Fires involving plutonium alloy and sodium together produced airborne plutonium-sodium ratios ranging from 0.34 to 0.008%.

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