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Plutonium-238 Production Program Results, Implications, and Projections from Irradiation and Examination of Initial NpO2 Test Targets for Improved Production

Publication Type
Journal Name
Nuclear Technology
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 8

An alternative target design with potential improvements, including a major increase in 238Pu production rate and annual capacity; fewer targets to be fabricated, irradiated, and processed; and a significant replacement of a large volume of caustic-nitrate, aluminum-bearing radioactive liquid waste with a smaller volume of solid metal waste, has been conceived and evaluated using reactor physics and thermal-hydraulic analyses. The alternative target design uses pressed pellets of 237NpO2, sintered to 92% to 93% of theoretical density, and stacked inside a Zircaloy-4 cladding tube. Four test targets were fabricated, irradiated, and examined. No melting or other potential problems were indicated. Projections from measured constituents indicated annual production could be increased by a factor of ~2, and the number of targets required to be fabricated, irradiated, and processed could be reduced by a factor of ~5.