Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Radiochemistry

First Committee Member

Ken Czerwinski, Chair

Second Committee Member

Paul Forster

Third Committee Member

Patricia Paviet-Hartmann

Fourth Committee Member

Mary Anne Yates

Graduate Faculty Representative

Anthony Hechanova

Number of Pages



To support the demonstration of a more proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel processing plant, techniques and instrumentation to allow the real-time, online determination of special nuclear material concentrations in-process must be developed. An ideal materials accountability technique for proliferation resistance should provide nondestructive, realtime, on-line information of metal and ligand concentrations in separations streams without perturbing the process. UV-Visible spectroscopy can be adapted for this precise purpose in solvent extraction-based separations.

The primary goal of this project is to understand fundamental URanium EXtraction (UREX) and Plutonium-URanium EXtraction (PUREX) reprocessing chemistry and corresponding UV-Visible spectroscopy for application in process monitoring for safeguards. By evaluating the impact of process conditions, such as acid concentration, metal concentration and flow rate, on the sensitivity of the UV-Visible detection system, the process-monitoring concept is developed from an advanced application of fundamental spectroscopy. Systematic benchtop-scale studies investigated the system relevant to UREX or PUREX type reprocessing systems, encompassing 0.01-1.26 M U and 0.01-8 M HNO 3 . A laboratory-scale TRansUranic Extraction (TRUEX) demonstration was performed and used both to analyze for potential online monitoring opportunities in the TRUEX process, and to provide the foundation for building and demonstrating a laboratory-scale UREX demonstration.

The secondary goal of the project is to simulate a diversion scenario in UREX and successfully detect changes in metal concentration and solution chemistry in a counter current contactor system with a UV-Visible spectroscopic process monitor. UREX uses the same basic solvent extraction flowsheet as PUREX, but has a lower acid concentration throughout and adds acetohydroxamic acid (AHA) as a complexant/reductant to the feed solution to prevent the extraction of Pu. By examining UV-Visible spectra gathered in real time, the objective is to detect the conversion from the UREX process, which does not separate Pu, to the PUREX process, which yields a purified Pu product. The change in process chemistry can be detected in the feed solution, aqueous product or in the raffinate stream by identifying the acid concentration, metal distribution and the presence or absence of AHA. A fiber optic dip probe for UV-Visible spectroscopy was integrated into a bank of three counter-current centrifugal contactors to demonstrate the online process monitoring concept. Nd, Fe and Zr were added to the uranyl nitrate system to explore spectroscopic interferences and identify additional species as candidates for online monitoring. This milestone is a demonstration of the potential of this technique, which lies in the ability to simultaneously and directly monitor the chemical process conditions in a reprocessing plant, providing inspectors with another tool to detect nuclear material diversion attempts.

Lastly, dry processing of used nuclear fuel is often used as a head-end step before solvent extraction-based separations such as UREX or TRUEX. A non-aqueous process, used fuel treatment by dry processing generally includes chopping of used fuel rods followed by repeated oxidation-reduction cycles and physical separation of the used fuel from the cladding. Thus, dry processing techniques are investigated and opportunities for online monitoring are proposed for continuation of this work in future studies.


Applied sciences; Dry processing; Nuclear safeguards; Process monitoring; Pure sciences; Reactor fuel reprocessing; Spent nuclear fuel; Spent reactor fuels


Materials Chemistry | Nuclear | Nuclear Engineering | Radiochemistry

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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