Near field immobilization of selenium oxyanions

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: The topic of this doctoral thesis is the potential near field immobilization of the radionuclide 79Se after intrusion of groundwater into a spent nuclear fuel canister in a repository. 79Se is a non naturally occurring long lived selenium isotope formed as a result of fission in nuclear fuel. Given the long half life (~3 x 105 y) and that the oxyanions of selenium are expected to be highly mobile and potentially difficult toimmobilize the isotope is of interest for the long term safety assessment of high level waste repositories. In this work the near field has been limited to the study of processes at or near the UO2 surface of (simulated) spent nuclear fuel and to processes occurring at or near the surface of iron (canister material) corroding under anoxic conditions. Selenite (HSeO32-) was found to adsorb onto palladium (simulated noble metal inclusion in spent nuclear fuel). Under hydrogen atmosphere selenite was reduced to elemental selenium with a rate constant of ~2 x 10-9 m s-1 (with respect to the Pd surface, 24 bar H2) forming colloidal particles. The rate constant of selenite reduction was increased by about two orders of magnitude to ~2.5 x 10-7 m s-1 (with respect to the Pd surface, 10 bar H2) for a UO2 surface doped with Pd particles, indicating that UO2 is an efficient co-catalyst to Pd. Selenate (SeO42-) was neither adsorbed nor reduced in the presence of Pd, UO2 and hydrogen. In the iron corrosion studies selenate was found to become reduced to predominantly elemental Se in the presence of a pristine iron surface. Iron covered by a corrosion layer of magnetite did however appear inert with respect to selenate whereas selenite was reduced. The reduction of dissolved uranyl into UO2 by the corroding iron surfaces was found to significantly increase the removal rate of selenite as well as selenate. The uranyl was found to transiently transform the outer iron oxide layers on the iron, forming a reactive mixed Fe(II)/Fe(III) oxyhydroxide (Green rust). Exchanging the solution and increasing the carbonate content (from 2 mM to 20 mM NaHCO3) only resulted in a minor, transient remobilization of uranium. Addition of H2O2 did however result in a significant release of uranium as well as selenium from the iron oxide surfaces. An irradiation experiment was also performed confirming the one electron reduction barrier of selenate as an important factor in systems where selenate reduction would be thermodynamically favorable.