Oxidative Alteration of Spent Fuel in a Silica-Rich Environment: SEM/AEM Investigation and Geochemical Modeling

Abstract

Correctly identifying the possible alteration products and accurately predicting their occurrence in a repository-relevant environment are the key for source-term calculations in a repository performance assessment. Uraninite in uranium deposits has long been used as a natural analog to spent fuel in a repository because of their chemical and structural similarity. In this paper, a SEM/AEM investigation has been conducted on a partially alterated uraninite sample from a uranium ore deposit of Shinkolobwe of Congo. The mineral formation sequences were identified: uraninite → uranyl hydrates → uranyl silicates → Ca-uranyl silicates or uraninite → uranyl silicates → Ca-uranyl silicates. Reaction-path calculations were conducted for the oxidative dissolution of spent fuel in a representative Yucca Mountain groundwater. The predicted sequence is in general consistent with the SEM observations. The calculations also show that uranium carbonate minerals are unlikely to become major solubility-controlling mineral phases in a Yucca Mountain environment. Some discrepancies between model predictions and field observations are observed. Those discrepancies may result from poorly constrained thermodynamic data for uranyl silicate minerals.

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Correspondence to Yifeng Wang.

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Wang, Y., Xu, H. Oxidative Alteration of Spent Fuel in a Silica-Rich Environment: SEM/AEM Investigation and Geochemical Modeling. MRS Online Proceedings Library 608, 67 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-608-67

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