Nucleation and growth of lead oxide particles in liquid lead bismuth eutectic

    Research outputpeer-review


    Liquid lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE) is an important candidate to become the primary coolant of future, generation IV, nuclear fast reactors and Accelerator Driven System (ADS) concepts. One of the main challenges with the use of LBE as a coolant is to avoid its oxidation which results in solid lead oxide (PbO) precipitation. The chemical equilibria governing PbO formation are well understood. However, insufficient kinetic information is currently available for the development of LBE-based nuclear technology. Here, we report the results of experiments in which the nucleation, growth and dissolution of PbO in LBE during temperature cycling are measured by monitoring dissolved oxygen using potentiometric oxygen sensors. The metastable region, above which PbO nucleation can occur, has been determined under conditions relevant for the operation of LBE cooled nuclear systems and was found to be independent of setup geometry and thus thought to be widely applicable. A kinetic model to describe formation and dissolution of PbO particles in LBE is proposed, based on Classical Nucleation Theory (CNT) combined with mass transfer limited growth and dissolution. This model can accurately predict the experimentally observed changes in oxygen concentration due to nucleation, growth and dissolution of PbO, using the effective interfacial energy of a PbO nucleus in LBE as a fitting parameter. The results are invaluable to evaluate the consequences of oxygen ingress in LBE cooled nuclear systems under normal operating and accidental conditions and form the basis for the development of cold trap technology to avoid PbO formation in the primary reactor circuit.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27593
    Number of pages27602
    JournalPCCP - Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics
    StatePublished - 20 Sep 2017

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