Solubility, speciation and local environment of chlorine in zirconolite glass-ceramics for the immobilisation of plutonium residues

Thornber, Stephanie M, Mottram, Lucy M, Mason, Amber R, Thompson, Paul ORCID: 0000-0002-9697-6141, Stennett, Martin C and Hyatt, Neil C
(2020) Solubility, speciation and local environment of chlorine in zirconolite glass-ceramics for the immobilisation of plutonium residues. RSC Advances: an international journal to further the chemical sciences, 10 (54). 32497 - 32510.

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The immobilisation and disposal of fissile materials from civil and defence nuclear programmes requires compatible, passively safe and proliferation resistant wasteforms. In this study, we demonstrate the application of an albite glass–zirconolite ceramic material for immobilisation of chloride contaminated plutonium oxide residues in the United Kingdom. The chlorine solubility limit in the albite glass phase was determined to be 1.0 ± 0.1 wt%, above the maximum envisaged chorine inventory of 0.5 wt%, attainable at a 20 wt% PuO2 incorporation rate within the ceramic. Cl K-edge of X-ray Absorption Near Edge Spectroscopy (XANES) was exploited to confirm partitioning of Cl to the glass phase, speciated as the chloride anion, with exsolution of crystalline NaCl above the chlorine solubility limit. Combinatorial fitting of Cl XANES data, utilising a library of chemically plausible reference spectra, demonstrated the association of Cl with Na and Ca modifier cations, with environments characteristic of the aluminosilicate chloride minerals eudialyte, sodalite, chlorellestadite and afghanite. Adventitious incorporation of Ca, Zr and Ti within the albite glass phase apparently assists chlorine solubility, by templating a local chemical environment characteristic of the mineral reference compounds. The partitioning of Ce, as a Pu analogue, within the glass–ceramic was not adversely impacted by incorporation of Cl. The significance of this research is in demonstrating the compatibility of the glass–ceramic wasteform toward Cl solubility at the expected incorporation rate, below the determined solubility limit. Thus, an upstream heat treatment facility to remove chloride contamination, as specified in the current conceptual flowsheet, would not be required from the perspective of wasteform compatibility, thus providing scope to de-risk the technology roadmap and reduce the projected capital and operational plant costs.

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2020 10:36
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2022 12:11
DOI: 10.1039/d0ra04938g
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