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Zirconia – A Ceramic for Excess weapons Plutonium Wastes

  • W. L. Gong (a1), W. Lutze (a1) and R. C. Ewing (a2)

We synthesized a ceramic containing simulated excess weapons plutonium waste in solidsolution with zirconia (ZrO2)ss. ZrO2 has a large solubility for other metal oxides. More thantwenty binary systems AxOy- ZrO2 have been reported in the literature, including PuG2, rare earth elements, and oxides of metals contained in weapons plutonium wastes. We show that significant amounts of gadolinium (neutron absorber) and yttrium (stabilizer of the cubic modification) can be dissolved in ZrO2, together with plutonium (simulated by Th4+, Ce4+, or U4+) and impurities (e.g., Ca Mg, Fe, Si). Sol-gel and powder methods were applied to make homogeneous, single phase zirconia solid solutions. Pu waste impurities were completely dissolved in the solid solutions. In contrast to other phases, e.g., zirconolite and pyrochlore, yttrium stabilized cubic zirconia does not undergo amorphization upon irradiation.

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