If a nuclear severe accident happens to a nuclear power plant, fission products can be released in the environment by some leakages of the nuclear containment building. Among them radioactive iodine is one of the most dangerous species due to its high radiological consequences during the first weeks after the accident, mainly due to 131I isotope. Some iodide aerosols, formed in the reactor coolant system, are expected to reach the containment, typically CsI and AgI, and next can react in moist oxidizing atmosphere resulting from steam/oxygen radiolysis to form gaseous molecular iodine, I2.
The aim of this work is to study the reactivity of iodide aerosols, it means understand/identify possible chemical pathways leading to the formation of volatile iodine species. Theoretical study based on density functional theory (DFT) including Van Der Waals corrections were performed to study at the molecular scale the chemical reactivity at the aerosol surfaces. Thermodynamic model was used also to determine the effect of temperature and pressure on the reactivity.
The results show that adsorption of water on the CsI and AgI particles is only possible at low temperatures, not representative of severe accident conditions. Several reaction pathways leading to the formation of volatile iodine species (I2, IOH and IH) were explored. These works show that formation of these species requires the oxidation the surface twice. One type of oxidant were tested which is OH°, resulting from steam radiolysis and initially present in the containment after radiolysis of water. The activation energy of I2 formation using OH° oxidants is respectively 1.2 and 1.0 eV for CsI and AgI oxidation processes.