Nanostructure of metallic particles in light water reactor used nuclear fuel

Edgar C. Buck, Edward J. Mausolf, Bruce K. McNamara, Chuck Z. Soderquist, Jon M. Schwantes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


An extraordinary nano-structure has been observed in the metallic (Mo-Tc-Ru-Rh-Pd) particles that are known to form during irradiated in light water nuclear reactor fuels. This structure points possible high catalytic reactivity through the occurrence of a very high surface area as well as defect sites. We have analyzed separated metallic particles from dissolved high burn-up spent nuclear fuel using scanning and transmission electron microscopy. The larger particles vary in diameter between ∼10 and ∼300 nm and possess a hexagonally close packed epsilon-ruthenium structure. These particles are not always single crystals but often consist of much smaller crystallites on the order of 1-3 nm in diameter with evidence suggesting the occurrence of some amorphous regions. It is possible that neutron irradiation and fission product recoils generated the unusual small crystallite size. The composition of the metallic particles was variable with low levels of uranium present in some of the particles. We hypothesize that the uranium may have induced the formation of the amorphous (or frustrated) metal structure. This unique nano-structure may play an important role in the environmental behavior of nuclear fuels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-243
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nuclear Materials
StatePublished - Jun 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • General Materials Science
  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering


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