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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Silvio Rodriguez

First Committee Member

Michael McCallum

Second Committee Member

Vyacheslav Samoshin

Third Committee Member

Cynthia Palmer

Fourth Committee Member

Patrick Jones


Tens of thousands of metric tons of highly radioactive, nuclear waste have been generated in the United States. Currently, there is no treatment or disposal facility for these wastes. Of the radioactive elements in high-level nuclear waste, neptunium (Np) is of particular concern because it has a long half-life and may potentially be very mobile in groundwaters associated with a proposed underground disposal site at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Aqueous Np concentrations observed in previous, short-term solubility experiments led to calculated potential doses exceeding proposed long-term regulatory limits. However, thermodynamic data for Np at 25°C showed that these observed aqueous Np concentrations were supersaturated with respect to crystalline NpO 2 . It was hypothesized that NpO 2 is the thermodynamically stable solid phase in aqueous solution, but it is slow to form in an aqueous solution of NpO 2 + on the time scale of previous experiments. The precipitation of NpO 2 would provide significantly lower aqueous Np concentrations leading to calculated doses below proposed regulatory limits. To test this hypothesis, solubility experiments were performed at elevated temperature to accelerate any slow precipitation kinetics. Ionic NpO 2 + (aq) was introduced into very dilute aqueous solutions of NaCl with initial pH values ranging from 6 to 10. The reaction vessels were placed in an oven and allowed to react at 200°C until steady-state aqueous Np concentrations were observed. In all cases, aqueous Np concentrations decreased significantly from the initial value of 10 −4 M. The solids that formed were analyzed by x-ray powder diffraction, x-ray absorption spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. The solids were determined to be high-purity crystals of NpO 2 . This is the first time that crystalline NPO 2 has been observed to precipitate from NpO 2 + (aq) in near-neutral aqueous solutions. The results obtained demonstrate that Np will precipitate as NpO 2 in aqueous solutions thereby leading to significantly lower aqueous Np concentrations.




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