Effects of HCO3- and ionic strength on the oxidation and dissolution of UO2

Sammanfattning: The kinetics for radiation induced dissolution of spent nuclear fuel is a key issue in the safety assessment of a future deep repository. Spent nuclear fuel mainly consists of UO2 and therefore the release of radionuclides (fission products and actinides) is assumed to be governed by the oxidation and subsequent dissolution of the UO2 matrix. The process is influenced by the dose rate in the surrounding groundwater (a function of fuel age and burn up) and on the groundwater composition. In this licentiate thesis the effects of HCO3- (a strong complexing agent for UO22+) and ionic strength on the kinetics of UO2 oxidation and dissolution of oxidized UO2 have been studied experimentally. The experiments were performed using aqueous UO2 particle suspensions where the oxidant concentration was monitored as a function of reaction time. These reaction systems frequently display first order kinetics. Second order rate constants were obtained by varying the solid UO2 surface area to solution volume ratio and plotting the resulting pseudo first order rate constants against the surface area to solution volume ratio. The oxidants used were H2O2 (the most important oxidant under deep repository conditions), MnO4- and IrCl62-. The kinetics was studied as a function of HCO3- concentration and ionic strength (using NaCl and Na2SO4 as electrolytes). The rate constant for the reaction between H2O2 and UO2 was found to increase linearly with the HCO3- concentration in the range 0-1 mM. Above 1 mM the rate constant is independent of the HCO3- concentration. The HCO3- concentration independent rate constant is interpreted as being the true rate constant for oxidation of UO2 by H2O2 [(4.4 ± 0.3) x 10-6 m min-1] while the HCO3- concentration dependent rate constant is used to estimate the rate constant for HCO3- facilitated dissolution of UO22+ (oxidized UO2) [(8.8 ± 0.5) x 10-3 m min-1]. From experiments performed in suspensions free from HCO3- the rate constant for dissolution of UO22+ was also determined [(7 ± 1) x 10-8 mol m-2 s-1]. These rate constants are of significant importance for simulation of spent nuclear fuel dissolution. The rate constant for the oxidation of UO2 by H2O2 (the HCO3- concentration independent rate constant) was found to be independent of ionic strength. However, the rate constant for dissolution of oxidized UO2 displayed ionic strength dependence, namely it increases with increasing ionic strength. The HCO3- concentration and ionic strength dependence for the anionic oxidants is more complex since also the electron transfer process is expected to be ionic strength dependent. Furthermore, the kinetics for the anionic oxidants is more pH sensitive. For both MnO4- and IrCl62- the rate constant for the reaction with UO2 was found to be diffusion controlled at higher HCO3- concentrations (~0.2 M). Both oxidants also displayed ionic strength dependence even though the HCO3- independent reaction could not be studied exclusively. Based on changes in reaction order from first to zeroth order kinetics (which occurs when the UO2 surface is completely oxidized) in HCO3- deficient systems the oxidation site density of the UO2 powder was determined. H2O2 and IrCl62- were used in these experiments giving similar results [(2.1 ± 0.1) x 10-4 and (2.7 ± 0.5) x 10-4 mol m-2, respectively].