Application of Molten Salt Oxidation for the Minimization and Recovery of 238Pu-Contaminated Wastes
R. Wishau, A. Montoya, K. B. Ramsey
Pu-238 is a radioactive material that alpha decays with an 88-hour half-life. In doing so, it gives off thermal energy. Thus, Pu-238 is used as a general purpose heat source (GPHS) or radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). Since the beginning of the space age, Pu-238 oxide has been used as an excellent heat and thermal-electric energy source. The heat sources are fabricated into cylindrical pellets typically have a height and diameter of 3 cm and weighing 150 g. A heat source this size has a power output of about 60 W. The heat then can be converted into electricity through thermal-electric converters that power instruments on board the spacecraft. Unlike a conventional battery, which relies on chemical action, the heat source can last up to 30 years. The Los Alamos National Laboratory Plutonium Facility has processed Pu-238 oxide heat sources for the past couple decades and as a result has generated Pu-238 contaminated wastes that are characterized as transuranic (TRU) waste. Molten Salt Oxidation (MSO) is proposed as a Pu-238 treatment technology that should be developed for volume reduction and recovery of Pu-238 and as an alternative to the transport and permanent disposal of Pu-238 waste to the WIPP repository.
This abstract was presented at the 32nd Annual Midyear Meeting, "Creation and Future Legacy of Stockpile Stewardship Isotope Production, Applications, and Consumption", Sealed Sources, Recycling, and Transmutation Session, 1/24/1999 - 1/27/1999, held in Albuquerque, NM.