When compounds in spent nuclear fuel break down, they can release radioactive elements into the ground and water. Scientists know that one fuel compound, neptunium dioxide, reacts with water, but they do not fully understand the process. This new study found that neptunium tends to dissolve where grains of the material come together, and larger grains are less likely to dissolve.
Three unused, 48,000-pound stainless steel canisters arrived at PNNL, bringing the chance to deepen research in spent nuclear fuel storage and transportation.
An international team used PNNL microscopy to answer questions about how uranium dioxide—used in nuclear power plants—might behave in long-term storage.
Story Tips: Molding matter atom by atom and seeing inside uranium particles, from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory