Gel electrophoresis of trivalent lanthanide and actinide cations
MetadataShow full item record
Chemical separation of the transuranic elements from the uranium and fission products in spent nuclear fuel is a major area of research in the nuclear engineering field. Spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors contains mainly uranium (about 96% of the total) which has 0.83% fissile 235U. Spent fuel also contains several isotopes of fissile plutonium (mainly 239Pu and 241Pu). Currently, commercialized processes such as the PUREX (Plutonium URanium EXtraction) process are effective in separating most of the Pu and U isotopes from the fission products using aqueous methods based on their chemical properties. However, spent fuel also contains an appreciable quantity of lanthanides which have similar chemical properties to the transuranic actinides and are thus very difficult to separate using existing technology. In this project, we aim to separate lanthanides from actinides using the well established process of electrophoresis. A model for ion transport in a porous medium is first developed using the Nernst-Planck equation and this model is used to approximate the behavior of an experimental electrophoretic system. The approach is based on the well established principles of capillary electrophoresis, but with a porous medium comprised of agarose gel taking the place of the traditional capillaries. We run gel electrophoresis experiments at varying parameters and use lanthanum and uranium ions to verify the theoretically predicted mobility in a practical environment.