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[en] Although the susceptibility of austenitic stainless steels to chloride-induced stress corrosion cracking is well known, uncertainties exist in terms of the environmental conditions that exist on the surface of the storage containers. While a diversity of salts is present in atmospheric aerosols, many of these are not stable when placed onto a heated surface. Given that the surface temperature of any container storing spent nuclear fuel will be well above ambient, it is likely that salts deposited on its surface may decompose or degas. To characterize this effect, relevant single and multi-salt mixtures are being evaluated as a function of temperature and relative humidity to establish the rates of degassing, as well as the likely final salt and brine chemistries that will remain on the canister surface.
[en] This report attempts to describe the geochemical foundations of the behavior of radionuclides in the environment. The information is obtained and applied in three interacting spheres of inquiry and analysis: (1) experimental studies and theoretical calculations, (2) field studies of contaminated and natural analog sites and (3) model predictions of radionuclide behavior in remediation and waste disposal. Analyses of the risks from radioactive contamination require estimation of the rates of release and dispersion of the radionuclides through potential exposure pathways. These processes are controlled by solubility, speciation, sorption, and colloidal transport, which are strong functions of the compositions of the groundwater and geomedia as well as the atomic structure of the radionuclides. The chemistry of the fission products is relatively simple compared to the actinides. Because of their relatively short half-lives, fission products account for a large fraction of the radioactivity in nuclear waste for the first several hundred years but do not represent a long-term hazard in the environment. The chemistry of the longer-lived actinides is complex; however, some trends in their behavior can be described. Actinide elements of a given oxidation state have either similar or systematically varying chemical properties due to similarities in ionic size, coordination number, valence, and electron structure. In dilute aqueous systems at neutral to basic pH, the dominant actinide species are hydroxy- and carbonato-complexes, and the solubility-limiting solid phases are commonly oxides, hydroxides or carbonates. In general, actinide sorption will decrease in the presence of ligands that complex with the radionuclide; sorption of the (IV) species of actinides (Np, Pu, U) is generally greater than of the (V) species. The geochemistry of key radionuclides in three different environments is described in this report. These include: (1) low ionic strength reducing waters from crystalline rocks at nuclear waste research sites in Sweden; (2) oxic water from the J-13 well at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the site of a proposed repository for high level nuclear waste (HLW) in tuffaceous rocks; and (3) reference brines associated with the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). The transport behaviors of radionuclides associated with the Chernobyl reactor accident and the Oklo Natural Reactor are described. These examples span wide temporal and spatial scales and include the rapid geochemical and physical processes important to nuclear reactor accidents or industrial discharges as well as the slower processes important to the geologic disposal of nuclear waste. Application of geochemical information to remediating or assessing the risk posed by radioactive contamination is the final subject of this report. After radioactive source terms have been removed, large volumes of soil and water with low but potentially hazardous levels of contamination may remain. For poorly-sorbing radionuclides, capture of contaminated water and removal of radionuclides may be possible using permeable reactive barriers and bioremediation. For strongly sorbing radionuclides, contaminant plumes will move very slowly. Through a combination of monitoring, regulations and modeling, it may be possible to have confidence that they will not be a hazard to current or future populations. Abstraction of the hydrogeochemical properties of real systems into simple models is required for probabilistic risk assessment. Simplifications in solubility and sorption models used in performance assessment calculations for the WIPP and the proposed HLW repository at Yucca Mountain are briefly described
[en] Conventional performance assessments assume that radioactive 99Tc travels as a non-sorbing component with an effective Kd (distribution coefficient) of 0. This is because soil mineral surfaces commonly develop net negative surface charges and pertechnetate (TcO4), with large ionic size and low electrical density, is not sorbed onto them. However, a variety of materials have been identified that retain Tc and may eventually lead to promising Tc getters. In assessing Tc getter performance it is important to evaluate the environment in which the getter is to function. In many contaminant plumes Tc will only leach slowly from the source of the contamination and significant dilution is likely. Thus, sub-ppb Tc concentrations are expected and normal groundwater constituents will dominate the aquifer chemistry. In this setting a variety of constituents were found to retard TcO4: imogolite, boehmite, hydrotalcite, goethite, copper sulfide and oxide and coal. Near leaking tanks of high level nuclear waste, Tc may be present in mg/L level concentrations and groundwater chemistry will be dominated by constituents from the waste. Both bone char, and to a lesser degree, freshly precipitated Al hydroxides may be effective Tc scavengers in this environment. Thus, the search for Tc getters is far from hopeless, although much remains to be learned about the mechanisms by which these materials retain Tc
[en] In the U.S., spent nuclear fuel (SNF) is stored in dry storage cask systems for long-term interim storage. The systems commonly used consist of welded stainless steel containers enclosed in ventilated cement or steel overpacks. These containers may be required to perform their waste isolation function for many decades, and failure by chloride-induced stress corrosion cracking (SCC) due to deliquescence of deposited salts is a major concern, particularly for near-marine storage sites. This paper presents a probabilistic performance assessment model to evaluate the probability of canister failure (through-wall penetration) by SCC. The model first assesses whether environmental conditions for SCC—the presence of an aqueous film—are present at canister weld locations (where tensile stresses are likely to occur) on the canister surface. Geometry-specific storage system thermal models and weather data sets representative of U.S. SNF storage sites are implemented to evaluate location-specific canister surface temperature and relative humidity (RH). As the canister cools and aqueous conditions become possible, the occurrence of corrosion is evaluated. Corrosion is modeled as a two-step process: first, pitting is initiated, and the extent and depth of pitting is a function of the chloride surface load and the environmental conditions (temperature and RH). Second, as corrosion penetration increases, the pit eventually transitions to a SCC crack, with crack initiation becoming more likely with increasing pit depth. Once pits convert to cracks, a crack growth model is implemented. The SCC growth model includes rate dependencies on both temperature and crack tip stress intensity factor, and crack growth only occurs in time steps when aqueous conditions are predicted. The model suggests that SCC is likely to occur over potential SNF interim storage intervals; however, this result is based on many modeling assumptions. Sensitivity analyses provide information on the model assumptions and parameter values that have the greatest impact on predicted storage canister performance, and provide guidance for further research to reduce uncertainties. (author)
[en] Stress corrosion cracking (SCC) of interim storage containers has been indicated as a high priority data gap by the Department of Energy (DOE) (Hanson et al., 2012), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI, 2011), the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board (NWTRB, 2010a), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC, 2012a, 2012b). Uncertainties exist in terms of the environmental conditions that prevail on the surface of the storage containers, the stress state within the container walls associated both with weldments as well as within the base metal itself, and the electrochemical properties of the storage containers themselves. The goal of the work described in this document is to determine the stress states that exists at various locations within a typical storage canister by evaluating the properties of a full-diameter cylindrical mockup of an interim storage canister. This mockup has been produced using the same manufacturing procedures as the majority of the fielded spent nuclear fuel interim storage canisters. This document describes the design and procurement of the mockup and the characterization of the stress state associated with various portions of the container. It also describes the cutting of the mockup into sections for further analyses, and a discussion of the potential impact of the results from the stress characterization effort.
[en] The majority of existing dry storage systems used for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) consist of a welded 304 stainless steel container placed within a passively-ventilated concrete or steel overpack. More recently fielded systems are constructed with dual certified 304/304L and in some cases, 316 or 316L. In service, atmospheric salts, a portion of which will be chloride bearing, will be deposited on the surface of these containers. Initially, the stainless steel canister surface temperatures will be high (exceeding the boiling point of water in many cases) due to decay heat from the SNF. As the SNF cools over time, the container surface will also cool, and deposited salts will deliquesce to form potentially corrosive chloride-rich brines. Because austenitic stainless steels are prone to chloride-induced stress corrosion cracking (CISCC), the concern has been raised that SCC may significantly impact long-term canister performance. While the susceptibility of austenitic stainless steels to CISCC in the general sense is well known, the behavior of SCC cracks (i.e., initiation and propagation behavior) under the aforementioned atmospheric conditions is poorly understood.
[en] This progress report describes work being done at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) to assess the localized corrosion performance of container/cask materials used in the interim storage of spent nuclear fuel (SNF). Of particular concern is stress corrosion cracking (SCC), by which a through-wall crack could potentially form in a canister outer wall over time intervals that are shorter than possible dry storage times. In order for SCC to occur, three criteria must be met. A corrosive environment must be present on the canister surface, the metal must susceptible to SCC, and sufficient tensile stress to support SCC must be present through the entire thickness of the canister wall. SNL is currently evaluating the potential for each of these criteria to be met.
[en] This letter report presents a probabilistic performance assessment model to evaluate the probability of canister failure (through-wall penetration) by SCC. The model first assesses whether environmental conditions for SCC - the presence of an aqueous film - are present at canister weld locations (where tensile stresses are likely to occur) on the canister surface. Geometry-specific storage system thermal models and weather data sets representative of U.S. spent nuclear fuel (SNF) storage sites are implemented to evaluate location-specific canister surface temperature and relative humidity (RH). As the canister cools and aqueous conditions become possible, the occurrence of corrosion is evaluated. Corrosion is modeled as a two-step process: first, pitting is initiated, and the extent and depth of pitting is a function of the chloride surface load and the environmental conditions (temperature and RH). Second, as corrosion penetration increases, the pit eventually transitions to a SCC crack, with crack initiation becoming more likely with increasing pit depth. Once pits convert to cracks, a crack growth model is implemented. The SCC growth model includes rate dependencies on both temperature and crack tip stress intensity factor, and crack growth only occurs in time steps when aqueous conditions are predicted. The model suggests that SCC is likely to occur over potential SNF interim storage intervals; however, this result is based on many modeling assumptions. Sensitivity analyses provide information on the model assumptions and parameter values that have the greatest impact on predicted storage canister performance, and provide guidance for further research to reduce uncertainties.
[en] Classical molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were performed to provide a conceptual understanding of the amorphous-crystalline interface for a candidate negative thermal expansion (NTE) material, ZrW2O8. Simulations of pressure-induced amorphization at 300 K indicate that an amorphous phase forms at pressures of 10 GPa and greater, and this phase persists when the pressure is subsequently decreased to 1 bar. However, the crystalline phase is recovered when the slightly distorted 5 GPa phase is relaxed to 1 bar. Simulations were also performed on a two-phase model consisting of the high-pressure amorphous phase in direct contact with the crystalline phase. Upon equilibration at 300 K and 1 bar, the crystalline phase remains unchanged beyond a thin layer of disrupted structure at the crystalline-amorphous interface. Differences in local atomic structure at the interface are quantified from the simulation trajectories. (paper)