EU Science Hub

JRC-ITU's new facility for actinide research

Nov 30 2010

A new Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) instrument is now installed and in early commissioning stages at the JRC-ITU. This unique facility will focus on determining the chemical and magnetic properties of radioactive solid-state samples and will contribute to ITU's research on actinides.

The minimisation of the long-term radiotoxicity of high level nuclear waste is a high priority in advanced nuclear fuel cycle concepts for the new generation of nuclear power reactors. Separation from spent fuel and the subsequent recycling of Plutonium and Uranium as fuels, and the transmutation of minor actinides in fast reactors are deemed necessary steps in achieving this goal. The JRC-ITU is involved in a joint project with the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI, Japan) devoted to the study of minor actinides-containing fast reactor metal fuels. The new NMR instrument will greatly aid researchers in their analysis of this fuel at different stages of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The NMR instrument is unique among its kind worldwide as its magnet is suspended about 2 metres off the ground, with a glove box underneath. A tube from the glove box extends up through the bore of the magnet. This integrated glove box structure better allows for the use of powders as it eliminates the fear that nuclear material will escape and contaminate the instrument and its surroundings. Magic-angle-spinning experiments can be carried out thanks to this set-up, in which solid samples are spun at a frequency of up to 70 kHz to give high resolution spectra of powders.

Nuclear magnetic resonance is a phenomenon which occurs when magnetic nuclei that are immersed in a static magnetic field are exposed to an electromagnetic pulse. The nuclei absorb energy from the electromagnetic pulse and radiate this energy back out at specific resonant frequencies. The resonant frequencies of nuclei with spin can be found using NMR spectroscopy, via NMR instruments. Determining these frequencies provides detailed information the chemical species and dynamics of a system.