International Journal of Chemistry | 2019
Purification of Indonesian Natural Graphite by Acid Leaching Method as Nuclear Fuel Matrix: Physical Characterization
Graphite matrix in Pebble Bed Reactor (PBR) fuel has an important role not only as neutron moderator and structural material to protect nuclear fuel, but also as heat transfer media. Therefore, the graphite matrix must meet the criteria of physical and chemical properties specified for PBR fuel. This paper focuses on the purification of the Indonesian natural graphite by using hydrometallurgy method with acid treatments. The characteristic of the purified graphite was studied for its specification compliance as a candidate of fuel matrix for PBR type of High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR). Acid and acid mixtures such as HF, HNO3+H2SO4 and HF+HCl+H2SO4 were used for the purification process. Crystal structure examination by X-Ray Diffraction indicates that the graphite sample was 2H poly type with hexagonal crystal structure and lattice group of P 63 m c space group. It was observed that the graphite sample purified by HNO3+H2SO4 mixture had the closest resemblance to single crystalline graphite with a deviation of 0.94 when compared to perfect graphite crystal. The density of graphite decreases from 2.3273 g/cm3 (before acid treatment) to 2.1808; 2.2203 and 2.2752 g/cm3 after treatment with HF, HNO3+H2SO4 and HF+HCl+H2SO4, respectively. These results are close to the theoretical density value of 2.26 g/cm3. The surface area decreases from 10.346 m2/g to 6.177; 5.831 and 7.63 m2/g for the treated graphite with HF, HNO3+H2SO4 and HF+HCl+H2SO4 respectively. However, these values are still higher than that of nuclear grade graphite (i.e. between 4.80 and 5.55 m2/g). The average diameter size of graphite decreased from 29.65 μm (before treated acid) into 23.12 μm (after treated acid). The Indonesian natural graphite obtained from acid purification treatment is potential to be used as matrix material for PBR - HTGR fuel, but further treatment is necessary.