Design of an Extractive Distillation Column for the Environmentally Benign Separation of Zirconium and Hafnium Tetrachloride for Nuclear Power Reactor Applications
Nuclear power with strengthened safety regulations continues to be used as an important resource in the world for managing atmospheric greenhouse gases and associated climate change. This study examined the environmentally benign separation of zirconium tetrachloride (ZrCl4) and hafnium tetrachloride (HfCl4) for nuclear power reactor applications through extractive distillation using a NaCl-KCl molten salt mixture. The vapor-liquid equilibrium behavior of ZrCl4 and HfCl4 over the molten salt
... the molten salt system was correlated with Raoult's law. The molten salt-based extractive distillation column was designed optimally using a rigorous commercial simulator for the feasible separation of ZrCl4 and HfCl4. The molten salt-based extractive distillation approach has many potential advantages for the commercial separation of ZrCl4 and HfCl4 compared to the conventional distillation because of its milder temperatures and pressure conditions, smaller number of required separation trays in the column, and lower energy requirement for separation, while still taking the advantage of environmentally benign feature by distillation. A heat-pump-assisted configuration was also explored to improve the energy efficiency of the extractive distillation process. The proposed enhanced configuration reduced the energy requirement drastically. Extractive distillation can be a promising option competing OPEN ACCESS Energies 2015, 8 10355 with the existing extraction-based separation process for zirconium purification for nuclear power reactor applications.