Isotope-biased materials

This strange term — "isotope-shifted material" outside the circle of insiders pops up infrequently. At the end of August, he again came at the meeting with as many as two Vice-Presidents of the fuel element at a time. Announced it is one of the leaders of the group Novouralsk research and design center Sergei G. Hamsters. So when one of the days in September, he agreed to change the business lunch for a chat about the prospects of NNKTS and Novouralsk scientific production cluster, I asked the question head-on.

-That, and the gold can be done? — Of course. You take mercury 196Hg, puts it in a nuclear reactor, and pulled out a ding 197Au … To be precise, on paper it looks like this:196Hg + n = 197Hg * +?

197Hg * + e = 197Au.

This is back in 1947 did. But now it’s not interesting.

— How interesting! This is GOLD! — I sat back on the couch and looked at him, puzzled. Sergey G. seemed a little annoyed that the conversation about the isotope-shifted material curled to such trivial things as gold. — Because it is expensive and … expensive. And anyway, what kind of gold you can tell when there is such great, I would say wonderful things like -90 zirconium, lead-207, but the same monoisotopic silicon. That’s where the real Klondike — Svineets? — Now it’s my turn to make a puzzled face. In some confusion, I looked at the window. There, struggling with its own traffic, seething life of a small office street. A neat two-story buildings built close to each other, the two formed a non-criminal "walls", firmly enclosing the outside world that the media community appears under the stamp "nuclear shield of the country." The whole industrial city with its streets and squares, shops and kilometer underground tunnels, the largest not that of the country, in the world of separating nuclear production, the Ural Electrochemical Plant. Supertechnologies, super-secret enriched uranium … and then, a hackneyed lead. — Well Lead Lead strife — apparently noticing my interlocutor continued skepticism — a natural lead, it’s a cocktail of its various isotopes from 204 th to 208 th, and more than half of the latter, and in some ores and its concentration reaches 99%. And what’s interesting lead for our nuclear industry? A. And what’s the main problem? That’s where some of these major problems.


In — the first, the melting temperature and corrosion. To lead remained liquid and worked as a coolant, it should cool down below 327 degrees Celsius. But maintaining this temperature for all possible situations, it is a serious technical problem. Priplyusuem to this threat of corrosion, slagging and formation of radiogenic lead, bismuth and polonium. But it is necessary to replace the natural lead to stable isotope 206, and the reactor will breathe much easier — the formation of radiogenic elements vary considerably. Once in the active zone, natural Lead is a potent radiation dose that he is not leaving just lead and bismuth partially. But with bismuth problems yet. The fact that the coolant loop closed, which means that bismuth re-enters the reactor and Irradiating turns into polonium, but it is a problem. Toxic substances is difficult to imagine, and thus its utilization comes at a great lot of money. Running in the lead reactor 206, about education in the coolant polonium and other dangerous radiogenic elements can be forgotten. The risk of beyond design basis accidents, too, can not be discounted, so the use of a high boiling point (bp = 2024 K) radiation — resistant low-activated lead coolant does not react with water and air allows heat dissipation at low pressure. And the rule fires, chemical and thermal explosions in the event of circuit, techah steam generator and any temperature teplonositelya.Teper take the lead 208, almost "transparent" — a low neutron capture cross section. He had already planned to be used in fast reactors-cautery actinides. When used, the reactor-efficiency Scorchlord increases by 25%! Lead also can be used in 208 unique devices — spektrometrah.Dalshe turn lead to 207. Of all his fellow-isotopes it differs largest cross section of electron capture. In terms of radiation safety is difficult to find a better protection and thus it can be made smaller, thinner and lighter devices that dlyakosmicheskih, reactors submarines and icebreakers very aktualno.Nu and finally lead 204. The isotope is remarkable in that it is the furthest from the radiogenic isotope of lead-210 (the content in the ore is negligible) and, accordingly, its content in the separation of a trace on the cascade of GC will be minimal due to the large (maximum) of the mass difference between the isotopes 210 and 204. Therefore, alpha-radiation lead 210 as an impurity in the lead 204 approaches zero. No alpha particles — no failures of electronic circuits. For the electronics industry, it’s just a dream, but not the material. And it needs to make only one processor is estimated at 300 tons per year! According to the law of meanness — it is very small in nature, total — 1.4%.


But back to our reactors. Almost all the internals are made of zirconium, or rather its alloys E110 iE635. Zirconia has very low thermal neutron capture cross section and a high melting point. But he is not without sin. Just as in the case of lead, zirconium, under the influence of radiation in the reactor has the ability to transform unpleasant Zirconium 92 93 Zirconia radioactive half-life of 1.53 million years. When out of the core take out the exhaust its "Build", then snap "fonit" for beta radiation at 200-300 Remote Control (maximum permissible level of radiation exposure). Well, where do with it then? Whence and took — in cheese mother-earth for all eternity. So no zirconium napaseshsya.A here if not in the design of fuel assemblies (fuel assembly) use only isotope of zirconium 90, we get a very long lasting material. Inside the reactor, it will first jump in the zirconium 91, then to 92 zirconium, and only then — in the 93rd isotope. And that — not a fact. The probability that one and the same atom will get three times the neutron, and with swallowing, is extremely small. Therefore, zirconium can be used again and again. Saving money is just awesome. Well, about the capture cross section let us mention. Thermal neutrons pass therethrough without delay, and the coolant is heated and not the assembly. More uniform fuel burn themselves TVS less deformed, the same high-level waste is less than 5-10 times — and this is a huge savings. Sergey G. paused, waiting for my reaction. — It certainly sounds extremely tempting, but here’s the big question remains open — HOW? How to get it 90 or zirconium 206th lead? — So it’s not a question. And how do we get the enriched uranium? That’s the same, — Sergey G. nodded toward the window — the whole plant stands. All day and night and only does that uranium 235 from the 238-th separate. That the uranium that zirconium, all one — metals. Enough to turn metal into a suitable "volatile" agent ", to drive him into a cascade of centrifuges, and to separate light from heavy isotopes — this task we decided 50 years ago.


Now in general
a unique situation, and if we can take advantage of it, then we take over the world, albeit in a narrow segment of the production, but with great potential, comparable even with the world market of uranium. Thus, these materials are in demand after the first successful experience with their application needs them can increase dramatically. Here let’s break it down. If you look at the isotope-shifted material as a product, it will be clear see that the potential need for them there, but the market as such, no. Why not use these metals so far — because no one produces commercial quantities (required volumes of tens, hundreds, thousands of tons). Question is, why does not produce or produced? Because all occupied by separating the production of uranium separation. And here we have the so-called "window of opportunity" in our favor when playing several circumstances. We have the unique technology of centrifugal separation of isotopes, and we released capacity for production of something else other than uranium. More recently, we uncork the champagne over the start of production of the ninth generation of centrifuges. A "nine" is not just better than the previous generation, it has the best performance at times. This means that installing one in a chain of "nine", we painless, can not even bring a "seven" and Pobol. But "Seven" are still able to work and work. From a technology perspective there is no difference to us, that enrich uranium, which lead to impoverish. Now isotopes, which we discussed above, are produced in the laboratory in miniscule amounts, just some few grams. Naturally, their price is astronomical proportions. We’re talking about the production of hundreds of tons of finished areas, with equipment and trained personnel! It is not necessary, I think, to explain how this will affect the cost of production. Coming on the market, but rather by creating this market, we will become and legislators, and monopolists. Even if competitors dare to rush after him, they will either have to release the power of uranium (for nuclear power plants than if they will work — it is not clear), or to build new facilities from the ground up (and this major investment, which would affect the value of the product)! Well, something like that, — Sergey G. reached for a cup of cold coffee already — and you say "gold" …

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