Opening of Nitride Spent Nuclear Fuel


Nitride nuclear fuel (UN + 10-20% PuN) is considered a promising alternative to the widely used oxide nuclear fuel (UO2). Thermal conductivity and density of nitride fuel are ∼ 7 times and 1.3 times higher than that of oxide fuel, respectively. Nitride fuel demonstrates a good compatibility with the cladding of fuel rods made of stainless steel. Along with the development of new fuel, methods for its subsequent processing are being developed. Various options for the initial opening of nitride spent nuclear fuel (SNF) are considered in this article. The use of gaseous chlorine is technologically inconvenient and dangerous when working with radioactive substances. The electrochemical dissolution of nitride SNF cannot be realized due to the formation of a by-product - UNCl. Uranium nitride chloride is an insulator and it blocks the electrochemical process. It was found that the chlorination of nitride SNF with cadmium or lead chlorides makes it possible to carry out 100% UN → UCl3 conversion. The use of voloxidation (oxidation of nitride SNF to oxides) as the first stage of processing will make the entire technology universal, suitable for processing both nitride and oxide SNF. The choice of the method for opening SNF depends on the choice of the subsequent stages of its processing.

Keywords: nitride spent nuclear fuel, SNF, chlorination, anodic dissolution, UNCl, “soft” chlorination, voloxidation, processing

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