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Laser Separation of Lead Isotopes


Investigation of Processes of High - Performance Laser Separation of Lead Isotopes by Selective for Development of Environmentally Clean Perspective Power Reactor Facilities

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-ISO/Isotopes/Fission Reactors

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Lapidus O V

Leading Institute
NIIEFA Efremov, Russia, St Petersburg

Supporting institutes

  • FEI (IPPE), Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk\nSiberian Branch of RAS / Institute of Semiconductor Physics, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Novosibirsk


  • Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft/Institute fur Reaktorsicherheit, Germany, Eggenstein-Leopoldshafen

Project summary

As a result of the fulfillment of the project, the investigations of high performance laser separation of lead isotopes will be carried out with the aim of the radiation-safe lead heat carrier production, that allows greatly decreasing of exploitation expenses for perspective power reactor facilities.

The development of modern nuclear power engineering in the world is connected to the development and creation of perspective power reactor facilities (PRF) on fast neutrons. Among them there are power fast-neutron reactors (FR), special reactors with hard neutron spectrum for transuranium burning out and undercritical nuclear-power facilities (UNPF). In the listed above PRF it is supposed to use heavy metal coolant and a proton converter into neutrons, namely, lead or lead - bismuth. From the point of view of its abundance in the nature and possibility of the activation in neutron spectrum PRF, it is necessary to give preference to lead as a coolant. However, despite of low activation of lead in comparison with other coolants, its long-time irradiation in PRF neutron spectrum results in accumulation of extremely dangerous alpha and gamma radionuclides, including polonium-210 and bismuth-207. Its generation in the coolant is connected to the large contents (52.3 %) of Pb-208 in natural lead. The precomputation of the applicant shows, that coolant, enriched with lead isotope-206 (up to 95 %), accumulates much less (in 103-104 times) radionuclides of polonium and bismuth, as against natural lead. In this connection in the project the new capabilities of lead isotope separation are evaluated with the purpose to obtain significant amounts (hundred tons) isotopes of lead-206 and lead-208 with reasonable for PRF price. Thus, lead-206 will be used as low-activated coolant and converter for FR and UNPF, and wasted lead-208 – as low decelerating coolant in special burners for transuranium elements.

To obtain large amounts of lead – 206 isotope the laser technology, based on "burning out" of selectively excited states of lead atoms is offered, using photochemical selective reactions. The availability of long-lived metastable states of lead makes the problem of its isotopes separation perspective, as the excitation can be provided by high-performance semiconductor lasers.

The preliminary economical estimations demonstrate, that the cost of lead - 206 obtaining by the method of the laser photochemistry is less than 0.5 $ /gr. (centrifugation ~20 $ /gr., AVLIS- method ~5 $ /gr).

The photochemical reactions of lead in metastable states Pb (3P1; 3P2; 1D2; 1S0) with different gases – reagents will be investigated in the project; the isotopic structure of the best suitable lead state for laser photochemistry application will be studied; a pilot separating chamber will be constructed, and the test production of lead isotopes will be carried out on operative equipment of FSUE NIIEFA and ISP SD RAS.

As a result of this activity there will be obtained the initial data for a pilot industrial facility design, for improvement of the laser photochemical technology for lead isotopes production.


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