Dissolution and Electrochemical Reduction of Zirconium, Thorium, and Uranium Metals in Ionic Liquids
Nuclear energy and the fuel cycle process presents significant challenges today. Both economically and environmentally the accumulation of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and its handling are of major concern for our planet’s future. One of the predominant methods for reprocessing SNF is the PUREX process which still creates waste streams that still require treatment. We report progress in removing radionuclides from solid oxide wastes via dissolution of metal oxide material in ionic liquid followed by electrochemical deposition of the metal onto a solid substrate. This process will isolate the radioactive metals in a recoverable and reusable solid form. This is advantageous for two reasons: (i) it recovers nuclear material for possible re-use in power generation and (ii) it keeps the radioactive material in a compact, securable form that is more environmentally responsible. Zirconium, thorium, and uranium were used to model actinide behavior, and were reacted under anhydrous conditions to produce a TFSI based compound found to be soluble in ionic liquid. The electrochemistry of these compounds suggests bulk electrolysis should be a viable method for the treatment of these waste streams.
Hammer, Phillip, "Dissolution and Electrochemical Reduction of Zirconium, Thorium, and Uranium Metals in Ionic Liquids" (2015). College of Arts and Sciences Presentations. Paper 13.