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Structural incorporation of the minor actinide Cm(III) in La1-xGdxPO4 rhabdophane and monazite solid solutions

Huittinen, N.; Scheinost, A. C.; Ji, Y.; Kowalski, P. M.; Arinicheva, Y.; Wilden, A.; Neumeier, S.


Monazites (LnPO4) are envisioned as potential immobilization matrices for high-level radioactive wastes produced e.g. during the nuclear fuel cycle [1–2]. Hydrated rhabdophane (LnPO4×0.67H2O) is a precursor phase during monazite synthesis and a potential solubility-limiting solid phase under nuclear waste storage conditions [3–4]. Thus, for a reliable long-term safety assessment of nuclear waste repositories for conditioned radioactive waste, a fundamental understanding of the radionuclide incorporation process in both the pristine monazite ceramics and their alteration products is required.

In the present study we have combined time-resolved laser fluorescence spectroscopy (TRLFS), X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (XAFS) spectroscopy and ab initio atomistic simulations to investigate the structural incorporation of the minor actinide curium in synthetic La1-xGdxPO4 monazite and rhabdophane solid solutions. The solid phase was synthesized by addition of phosphoric acid to a solution containing La3+ and Gd3+ in desired relative concentrations and a small amount of the actinide (248Cm), until a white precipitate of La1-xGdxPO4 rhabdophane doped with approximately 50 ppm Cm3+ was obtained. An aliquot of the obtained solid phase was thereafter sintered at 1450°C to acquire the crystalline monazite ceramic. Structural refinement of collected XRD data for both rhabdophane and monazite solids show a linear dependency of lattice parameters as a function of Gd3+ substitution according to Vegard’s law.
Our combined spectroscopic results show that Cm3+ is incorporated in the monazite end-members (LaPO4 and GdPO4) on one specific, highly ordered lattice site. In the intermediate solid solution compositions, an increasing disorder around the Cm3+ dopant can be seen as a result of a broader distribution of possible Cm∙∙∙O bond-lengths in comparison to the end-member compositions with very well-defined nearest neighbour distances. Despite this local structural disordering, homogenous solid solutions were obtained for all synthesized monazite compositions without the formation of dopant clusters that could potentially hamper the performance of the monazite ceramics for the immobilization of minor actinide containing wastes.
The hydrated rhabdophane lattice comprises two different site types that could accommodate the actinide dopant: a 9-coordinated “hydrated” site amounting to two thirds (2/3) of the total number of lanthanide sites in the solid structure, where one coordinating oxygen atom originates from a water molecule, and an 8-fold coordinated “non-hydrated” site (1/3 of available Ln sites) where all oxygen atoms are provided by phosphate groups [4]. Based on our laser spectroscopic investigation, curium incorporation on both site types can be confirmed, however, the site occupancy is not in concordance with the hydrated rhabdophane structure. In contrast, a preferential incorporation of curium on non-hydrated lattice sites can be seen, especially for the La-rich rhabdophane compositions, implying that structural substitution reactions cannot be predicted based on the structure of the host matrix only.

Keywords: Cm(III); spectroscopy; incorporation; rhadbophane; monazite

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    International Symposium on Solubility Phenomena and Related Equilibrium Processes (ISSP), 15.-20.07.2018, Tours, France


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