Plutonium Conversion Plant Equipment
Plutonium conversion plants and systems may perform one or more transformations from one plutonium chemical species to another, including: conversion of plutonium nitrate to PuO2, conversion of PuO2 to PuF4 and conversion of PuF4 to plutonium metal. Plutonium conversion plants are usually associated with reprocessing facilities, but may also be associated with plutonium fuel fabrication facilities. Many of the key equipment items for plutonium conversion plants are common to several segments of the chemical process industry. For example, the types of equipment employed in these processes may include the following items: furnaces, rotary kilns, fluidized bed reactors, flame tower reactors, liquid centrifuges, distillation columns and liquid-liquid extraction columns. Hot cells, glove boxes and remote manipulators may also be required. However, few of the items are available off-the-shelf; most would be prepared according to the requirements and specifications of the customer. Particular care is essential in designing for the special radiological, toxicity and criticality hazards associated with plutonium. In some circumstances, special design and construction considerations are required to address the corrosive properties of some of the chemicals handled (e.g., HF). Finally, it should be noted that, for all plutonium conversion processes, items of equipment which individually are not especially designed or prepared for plutonium conversion can be assembled into systems that are especially designed or prepared for use in plutonium conversion.
Especially designed or prepared systems for the conversion of plutonium nitrate to oxide. The main functions involved in this process are: process feed storage and adjustment, precipitation and solid/liquor separation, calcination, product handling, ventilation, waste management, and process control. The process systems are particularly adapted so as to avoid criticality and radiation effects and to minimize toxicity hazards. In most reprocessing facilities, this process involves the conversion of plutoniumnitrate to plutonium dioxide. Other processes can involve the precipitation of plutonium oxalate or plutonium peroxide.
Especially designed or prepared systems for plutonium metal production. This process usually involves the fluorination of plutonium dioxide, normally with highly corrosive hydrogen fluoride, to produce plutonium fluoride, which is subsequently reduced using high purity calcium metal to produce metallic plutonium and a calcium fluoride slag. The main functions involved in this process are the following: fluorination (e.g., involving equipment fabricated or lined with a precious metal), metal reduction (e.g., employing ceramic crucibles), slag recovery, product handling, ventilation, waste management and process control. The process systems are particularly adapted so as to avoid criticality and radiation effects and to minimize toxicity hazards. Other processes include the fluorination of plutonium oxalate or plutonium peroxide followed by reduction to metal.
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