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Changing the rules of the game: used fuel studies outside of a remote handling facility


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has leveraged focused ion beam capability at their Category II Nuclear Facility to facilitate nuclear materials analysis and experimentation at the micron scale. For this particular study, micron-size specimens of un-irradiated UO2 fuel pellets of various enrichments were prepared and irradiated to a burnup equivalent of 8–3700 MWd/MTU. This represents first of its kind study of used fuel investigations outside of a hot cell facility, dramatically minimizing resource requirements through reduction in scale. Results of this study provide insight into the initial production of noble metal phase particles in used nuclear fuel at extremely low burnup levels.

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This work was supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD): Nuclear Processing Science Initiative (NPSI). Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is a multi-program national laboratory operated for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) by Battelle Memorial Institute under Contract DE-AC06-76RLO 1830. Most experiments were performed in the PNNL RPL Facility with the RPL Microscopy Quiet Suite, which is outfitted with a FEI Helios 660 FIM/SEM and a JEOL GrandARM300 Aberration Corrected (AC) STEM/TEM. TEM measurements were conducted using a JEOL ARM200 AC-STEM/TEM located in 3410, part of the Physical Sciences Facility (PSF) on campus. All of these instruments are part of PNNL’s Institutional Microscopy Tools.

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Correspondence to Richard A. Clark.

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Schwantes, J.M., Conroy, M., Lach, T.G. et al. Changing the rules of the game: used fuel studies outside of a remote handling facility. J Radioanal Nucl Chem 322, 1267–1272 (2019).

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  • Used nuclear fuel
  • Noble metal phase
  • Epsilon phase
  • Nuclear materials science
  • Focussed ion beam
  • University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR)