Cameron Tracy1 Chien-Hung Chen1 Sulgiye Park1 M. Lee Davisson2 Rodney Ewing1

1, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States
2, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California, United States

Nuclear forensics involves determination of the origin and history of interdicted nuclear materials based on the detection of signatures associated with their production and trafficking. The surface oxidation undergone by UO2 when exposed to air is a potential signature of its atmospheric exposure during handling and transport. To assess the sensitivity of this oxidation to atmospheric parameters, surface sensitive grazing-incidence x-ray diffraction (GIXRD) measurements were performed on UO2 samples exposed to air of varying relative humidity (34%, 56%, and 95% RH) and temperature (room temperature, 50 °C, and 100 °C). Near-surface unit cell contraction was observed following exposure, indicating oxidation of the surface and accompanying reduction of the uranium cation ionic radii. The extent of unit cell contraction provides a measure of the extent of oxidation, allowing for comparison of the effects of various exposure conditions. No clear influence of relative humidity on the extent of oxidation was observed, with samples exhibiting similar degrees of unit cell contraction at all relative humidities investigated. In contrast, the thickness of the oxidized layers increased substantially with increasing temperature, such that differences on the order of 10 °C yielded readily observable crystallographic signatures of the exposure conditions.