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Radiation Tolerance of Complex Oxides


Radiation Tolerant Material for Nuclear Waste Storage


Safe container for nuclear waste

There exists a formidable challenge to the development of durable waste forms for the immobilization and long-term storage of surplus actinides and high-level wastes such as spent fuel from nuclear reactors. Currently, the waste, after spending years in cooling tank, is stored in containers made from glass-like chemicals and sealed in metal drums, which are effective for only about 100 years. These containers are put into geologically stable places such as disused salt mines, or buried very deep in the earth. The problem with containers that only last a hundred years is that some radioactive wastes have a half-life of millions and sometimes billions of years. For example, the half-life of the uranium-238 atom is 4.5 billion years.

The principal obstacle is the identification of a nuclear-waste host material that is not only chemically stable, but also able to withstand high doses of self-radiation. Typically, radioactive emissions jostle the atoms of a storage material out of their carefully ordered arrangement so that the material eventually becomes unstable and thus prone to cracking, swelling or structural change. If the structure of the waste container becomes severely damaged, highly toxic substances could leak into the ground and air. Stowing nuclear waste for the long run requires containment materials that can resist leaching and radiation damage for thousands of years. The technical challenge for high-level waste storage has therefore been to identify materials for which deleterious radiation effects are averted even at very high self-irradiation exposures.


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