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Evidence of trivalent Am substitution into U3O8

Caisso, M.; Roussel, P.; Den Auwer, C.; Picart, S.; Hennig, C.; Scheinost, A. C.; Delahaye, T.; Ayral, A.


U3O8 is considered to be the most stable phase for uranium oxide. Its structural properties must be accurately understood in order to foresee and manage aspects such as its leaching behavior when spent nuclear fuel is stored in an oxidative environment. Moreover, as fuel irradiation causes the formation of fission products and activation products such as plutonium and minor actinides, it is probable that U3O8 will be mixed with other chemical elements under real conditions of oxidation. The storage issue can be extended to americium transmutation, where the irradiated compounds are mixed oxides composed of uranium and americium. This study thus focused on determining the structural properties of a solid solution containing uranium and trivalent americium (U/Am ratio = 90/10), and synthetized so as to obtain conventional U3O8 oxide. This paper presents the possibility of combining trivalent americium with uranium in a U3O8 mixed oxide for the first time, despite the high valence and atomic ratio differences, and proposes novel structural arrangements. XRD measurements reveal americium substitution in U3O8 uranium cationic sites, leading to phase transformation into a U3O8 high temperature structure and general lattice swelling. XANES and EXAFS experiments highlight an excess of U+VI organized in uranyl units as the main consequence of accommodation.

Keywords: americium; transmutation; U3O8

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