In nuclear facilities utilizing plutonium, polymeric materials are subjected to long-term, close-contact, and continuous α radiation exposure, which can lead to compounding material degradation and eventual failure. Herein we model the attenuation of α particles by linear-low-density polyethylene (LLDPE), polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) thin films, and C60 using Monte Carlo N-Particle Extended (MCNPX) software. The degradation of these materials was investigated experimentally by irradiating them with a beam of α particles of 5.8 MeV energy at a tandem Van de Graaff accelerator delivering a dose rate of 2.95 × 106 rad s-1 over a 7.1 mm2 sample area. Our development of a method to test α particle-induced material degradation using a tandem accelerator is significant as degradation from naturally occurring α sources (i.e. Pu, Am) occurs too slowly for these sources to be used in practical experiments. Our results show that PVA nanocomposites containing 5 wt% C60 were found to withstand about 7 times the α dose of undoped PVA films before a puncture in the film was detected. When these films were adhered to a LLDPE sheet the dual layer polymer was capable of withstanding about 13 times the dose of LLDPE and nearly twice the dose of the doped PVA thin film alone. Doping polymers with C60 is an attractive way to generate more durable, radiation tolerant materials without increasing the thickness of the material which would lead to greater waste for disposal. Thus, the results herein help to resolve a prevalent technical challenge faced in nuclear facilities that utilize polymeric materials for nuclear processing and disposal.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Chemical Engineering(all)