The effect of ion irradiation on the dissolution of UO<inf>2</inf> and UO<inf>2</inf>-based simulant fuel

06 Feb 2018

The aim of this work was to study the separate effect of fission fragment damage on the dissolution of simulant UK advanced gas-cooled reactor nuclear fuel in water. Plain UO2 and UO2 samples, doped with inactive fission products to simulate 43 GWd/tU of burn-up, were fabricated. A set of these samples were then irradiated with 92 MeV 129Xe23+ ions to a fluence of 4.8 × 1015 ions/cm2 to simulate the fission damage that occurs within nuclear fuels. The primary effect of the irradiation on the UO2 samples, observed by scanning electron microscopy, was to induce a smoothening of the surface features and formation of hollow blisters, which was attributed to local heating during the ion irradiation. Dissolution experiments were conducted in single-pass flow-through (SPFT) mode under anoxic conditions (< 0.1 O2 ppm in Ar) to study the effect of the induced irradiation damage on the dissolution of the UO2 matrix with data collection capturing six minute intervals for several hours. These time-resolved data showed that the irradiated samples showed a higher initial release of uranium than unirradiated samples, but that the uranium concentrations converged towards ~10-9 mol/l after a few hours. Apart from the initial spike in uranium concentration, attributed to irradiation induced surficial micro-structural changes, no noticeable difference in uranium chemistry as measured by X-ray electron spectroscopy or ‘effective solubility’ was observed between the irradiated, doped and undoped samples in this work. Some secondary phase formation was observed on the surface of UO2 samples after the dissolution experiment.