Kinetics and mechanism of the plutonium catalysed nitric acid oxidation of U(IV) ions in 30% tributyl phosphate solution

V. S. Koltunov, G.I. Zhuravleva, V. I. Marchenko, K. N. Dvoeglazov, O. A. Savilova, G. V. Koltunov, Robin J. Taylor,  and M. Bankhead

The oxidation of U(IV) ions in the diluted solvent phase, 30% TBP/n-dodecane, has been investigated in the presence of plutonium ions, which can act as catalysts for U(IV) oxidation. The reaction was shown to follow the cycle below, with the first and third stages being rate determining.

U4+ + 2Pu4+ + 2H2O → UO22+ + 2Pu3++4H+

2Pu3+ + HNO3 + 2H+ → 2Pu4+ + HNO2 + H2O

Pu3+ + HNO2 + H+ → Pu4+ + NO + H2O

2NO + HNO3 + H2O ⇔ 3HNO2

The overall reaction stoichiometry is the same as for the oxidation of U(IV) by HNO3 in TBP:

U(NO3)4·2TBP + HNO3·TBP + H2O·TBP + TBP ⇔ UO2(NO3)2·2TBP + HNO2·TBP + 2HNO3·TBP

The rate equations of both these rate limiting steps have been determined, with that for the U(IV)-Pu(IV) reaction (5) being given by the equation below, where k1=74.4±6 M-1.2 min-1 at 25.2 °C and the activation energy is 72±11 kJ mol-1 (in 0.5 M HNO3).

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The rate of the second slow stage, the Pu(III)-HNO2 reaction, is given by the equation below, where the rate constant is k2=627±28 M-1 min-1 at 25.2 °C and the activation energy is 87.2±1.4 kJmol-1 (in 0.5 M HNO3).

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Mechanistically, it was shown that the U(IV)-Pu(IV) reaction may proceed via the interaction of the hydrolysed actinide ions U(OH)22+ and PuOH3+ and the Pu(III)-HNO2 reaction was found to most probably involve oxidation of Pu(III) ions by nitrinium nitrate (NONO3) ions in its rate determining step.

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Radiochimica Acta publishes original papers, review articles, and “rapid communications” (short articles of a more timely interest) on all chemical aspects of nuclear science and technology. The journal is geared toward scientists who are actively engaged in research work.

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