Most of performance assessment models for spent fuel repository safety consider radiolysis-self-oxidation to describe fuel matrix release. Nevertheless, due to radioactive decay, the matrix dissolution process under reducing conditions would be controlled by the solubility limit of the steady U solid phase. In this work, leaching behaviour under anoxic and reducing conditions of spent fuel unirradiated chemical analogues (natural U02 and SIMFUEL) in simulated groundwater is studied.
The trial procedure was performed taking into account the possibility that the uranium oxide to be leachated had an initial outer layer with an oxidation state higher than the matrix. This oxidised layer would produce an overestimation on U concentration in solution for the solid studied. In order to avoid this effect, a complete replacement of the leaching solutions was carried out after several days of experimentation. After this initial experimental step, the steady state concentrations obtained in all tests were more than one order of magnitude lower than before. Uranium concentrations found in reducing and anoxic experiments for both U02 and SIMFUEL tests were very close. This fact is attributed to similarity in environmental conditions (pH, Eh, etc.). From that, it can be assured that steady state concentration obtained is independent of solid leached (UO2 or SIMFUEL). In order to assess which is the solid phase that could control the solubility of U, the experimental concentration obtained was compared with results from geochemical code EQ3/6. According with the theoretical calculations U4O9 would be the controlling pure phase formed in whole experimental tests described in this work. Comparisons with bibliography data from leaching experiments of spent nuclear fuel were made as well.