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Corrosion and Migration of Zero-Valent Depleted Uranium Products in Soil

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Technical Report

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Zero-valent metallic depleted uranium DU penetrators exposed in the environment after firing frequently undergo corrosion. Unlike previous field studies, this report evaluates metallic DU corrosion in a controlled laboratory setting using a 28 day wetdry cycling method to simulate environmental corrosion. Carried out in construction-grade sand, the study evaluated the effect of three solutions deionized DI water, 3.5 percent salt NaCl solution, and an acid solution. Two oxidation products in the reactors were noted at 14 days, both in the sand and on the penetrator. Oxidation product migrated to the sand media the higher percentage of migration came from the corrosion fluid that produced the least amount of corrosion. Changes in mass percentages of uranium and oxygen correlated with density changes, as evidenced by relative brightness, to show differences in corrosion. Other elements sodium, magnesium, iron, and calcium increased in mass percentage with increasing corrosion. Five soil types were also used to corrode DU. Multiple soil physical and chemical characteristics appear to contribute to differences in the rates of corrosion, including soil pH, percentage of soil fines, and total organic carbon content. These studies suggest that limiting moisture and salt exposure could reduce corrosion of exposed DU and subsequent migration.

Subject Categories:

  • Geology, Geochemistry and Mineralogy
  • Environmental Health and Safety
  • Radioactivity, Radioactive Wastes and Fission Products

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