[ RadSafe ] "Rescuing a Treasure -- Uranium-233"

Jaro Franta jaro_10kbq at videotron.ca
Sun Jul 8 05:59:41 CDT 2012

Rescuing a Treasure -- Uranium-233


Alan M. Krichinsky, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Steve A. Goldberg, New Brunswick Laboratory
Ian D. Hutcheon, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory


Uranium-233 (233U) is a synthetic isotope of uranium formed under reactor
conditions during neutron capture by natural thorium (232Th). At high
purities, this synthetic isotope serves as a crucial reference for
accurately quantifying and characterizing natural uranium isotopes for
domestic and international safeguards. 
Separated 233U is stored in vaults at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).
These materials represent a broad spectrum of 233U from the standpoint of
isotopic purity-the purest being crucial for precise analyses in
safeguarding uranium. 

All 233U at ORNL currently is scheduled to be down blended with depleted
uranium beginning in 2015. Such down blending will permanently destroy the
potential value of pure 233U materials as certified reference materials for
use in uranium analyses. 
Furthermore, no replacement 233U stocks are expected to be produced in the
future due to a lack of operating production capability and the high cost of
restarting this currently shut down capability. 
This paper will outline a recent effort to assess the annual consumption of
233U in the U.S., describes the gap between current supplies and future
needs, and develops a program to rescue the purest of 233U
materials-arguably a national treasure-from destruction by down blending so
it may be preserved for use as a crucial reference for safeguarding nuclear

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