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Determining the porosity and water impregnation in irradiated graphite

Abstract : Impurities in nuclear graphite can become neutron-activated during operation, generating radionuclides and leading to modifications in the microstructure of the graphite due to fast neutrons. The long-term disposal of nuclear graphite waste requires collecting data on the behaviour of long-lived radionuclides in disposal conditions (water-saturated). The release of radionuclides in solution depends on a number of physicochemical processes such as water ingress into the graphite structure (radionuclides sites), as well as the solubilisation and transport of radionuclides in solution through the graphite pores. Analysis of the impregnation (impregnation speed, impregnation rate) of water in the porous graphite environment represents one of the main parameters that will greatly influence the physicochemical processes controlling the release of radionuclides in solution. For this reason, the impregnation of irradiated samples from the G2 and St Laurent A2 (SLA2) gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactors was studied, as was the distribution of the porosity. Results show that the geometric density of the samples decreases after irradiation, which is expressed as an increase in the total porosity or more precisely in the open porosity. This means that irradiated graphite is mainly a macroporous solid. Nuclear graphite becomes a more hydrophobic material with its open porosity filled by water in just a few days. This is due to the presence of functional groups on the pore surface.
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J. Comte, C. Guy, L. Gosmain, S. Parraud. Determining the porosity and water impregnation in irradiated graphite. Journal of Nuclear Materials, Elsevier, 2018, 528, pp.151816. ⟨10.1016/j.jnucmat.2019.151816⟩. ⟨cea-02339842⟩

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