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Cleaning Cesium Radionuclides from BN-350 Primary Sodium

O. G. Romanenko, K. J. Allen, D. M. Wachs, H. P. Planchon, P. B. Wells, J. A. Michelbacher, P. Nazarenko, I. Dumchev, V. Maev, B. Zemtzev, L. Tikhomirov, V. Yakovlev, A. Synkov

Nuclear Technology

Volume 150 / Number 1 / April 2005 / Pages 79-99


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This paper reports the successful design and operation of a system to remove highly radioactive cesium from the sodium coolant of the BN-350 reactor in Aktau, Kazakhstan. As an international effort between the United States and the Republic of Kazakhstan, a cesium-trapping system was jointly designed, fabricated, installed, and successfully operated. The results are significant for a number of reasons, including (a) a significant reduction of radioactivity levels of the BN-350 coolant and reactor surfaces, thereby reducing exposure to workers during shutdown operations; (b) demonstration of scientific ideas; and (c) the engineering application of effective cesium trap deployment for commercial-sized liquid-metal reactors. About 255 300 GBq (6900 Ci) of cesium was trapped, and the 137Cs specific activity in BN-350 primary sodium was decreased from 296 MBq/kg (8000 Ci/kg) to 0.37 MBq/kg (10 Ci/kg) by using seven cesium traps containing reticulated vitreous carbon (RVC) as the cesium adsorbent. Cesium trapping was accomplished by pumping sodium from the primary circuit, passing it through a block of RVC within each trap, and returning the cleaned sodium to the primary circuit. Both to predict and to analyze the behavior of the cesium traps in the BN-350 reactor primary circuit, a model was developed that satisfactorily describes the observed results of the cesium trapping. By using this model, thermodynamic parameters, such as the heat of adsorption of cesium atoms on RVC and on internal piping surfaces of the BN-350 reactor primary circuit, -22.7 and -5.0 kJ/mole, respectively, were extracted from the experimental data.

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