Nuclear reprocessing plant liquors resulting from the PUREX process contain ruthenium present as a mixture of nitrosyl complexes in nitric acid. Ruthenium is not corrosive toward stainless steels unless the conditions are sufficiently oxidizing to promote the decomposition of one or more of the nitrosyl complexes present, in which case the production of finely-divided RuO2 occurs. In this work, the corrosive effect of RuO2 coatings that were produced by the thermal decomposition of RuCl3 is reported. The corrosion potential and corrosion rate of stainless steel were found to be significantly increased by the presence of RuO2 coatings, and depended on the temperature, but did not depend on the amount of RuO2 present provided above a threshold which was found to lie in the range 43 μg/cm2 to 86 μg/cm2 of RuO2. Corrosion potential measurements indicated that in hot 10 M nitric acid, the RuO2 coatings formed by the thermal decomposition of RuCl3 reproduced the effect of RuO2 formed from the in situ oxidation of a tri-nitrato ruthenium compound. However, a stronger, but only short-term, effect was also found, which is attributed to an intermediate precursor of RuO2, considered likely to be RuO4. Two separate corrosion accelerating effects can therefore arise in ruthenium-bearing liquors.

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