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Efficient separation of americium by a mixed solvent of two extractants, a diamideamine and a nitrilotriacetamide

Suzuki, Hideya*; Ban, Yasutoshi  

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has proposed the Solvent Extraction from Liquid waste using Extractants of CHON-type for Transmutation (SELECT) process by solvent extraction as a new separation technology to recover minor actinides (MA) from high-level liquid waste (HLLW) produced by spent fuel reprocessing. The MA separation in the SELECT process comprises the batch recovery of MA and rare earths (RE) from HLLW, MA/RE separation, and Am/Cm separation. Three highly practical extractants are used in the MA separation. Furthermore, this flow configuration facilitates the preparation of nitric acid concentrations in the aqueous phase. However, the separation factor between Cm and Nd in the MA/RE separation is small ($$SF$$$$_{rm Cm/Nd}$$ = 2.5), requiring many extraction stages for continuous extraction in a mixer-settler. Therefore, this study investigated the separation of only Am from an aqueous nitric acid solution containing MA (Am and Cm) and RE using an organic phase mixed with two extractants alkyl diamideamine with 2-ethylhexyl alkyl chains (ADAAM(EH)) and hexa-n-octylnitrilotriacetamide (HONTA) used in the SELECT process. Under high-concentration nitric acid conditions, Am and La, Ce, Pr, Nd (light lanthanides) were extracted in the ADAAM(EH) + HONTA mixed solvent, whereas Cm, medium, and heavy lanthanides, and Y were partitioned in the aqueous phase. Subsequently, only light lanthanides could be back extracted from the ADAAM(EH) + HONTA mixture solvent containing Am and light lanthanides in low nitric acid concentrations. Furthermore, Am could be easily stripped with 0.2 M or 5 M nitric acid. This method does not require the mutual separation of Cm and Nd, which have low separation factors. Am can be efficiently separated by one extraction and two back-extractions, reducing the number of steps in the SELECT process.

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