Hazardous Gas Production by Alpha Particles Page: 3 of 24
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This project focused on the production of hazardous gases in the radiolysis of
solid organic matrices, such as polymers and resins, that may be associated with
transuranic waste material. Self-radiolysis of radioactive waste is a serious environmental
problem because it can lead to a change in the composition of the materials in storage
containers and possibly jeopardize their integrity. Experimental determination of gaseous
yields is of immediate practical importance in the engineering and maintenance of
containers for waste materials. Fundamental knowledge on the radiation chemical
processes occurring in these systems allows one to predict outcomes in materials or
mixtures not specifically examined, which is a great aid in the management of the variety
of waste materials currently overseen by Environmental Management.
This project was successful in designing several novel devices for heavy ion
radiolysis and applying them to the measurement of gaseous products in a variety of
polymer materials commonly associated with radioactive waste. Gas production was
determined in the radiolysis with gamma rays, protons, helium ions, and carbon ions.
These particles are representative of the different radiation fields that might be
experienced in mixed waste storage environments, such as neutrons, alpha particles, and
heavy recoil ions. Hydrogen is the most common hazardous gaseous product, although
methane and ethane are possible, depending on the particular material. The yields of
hydrogen were found to increase by an order of magnitude from gamma ray to alpha
particle radiolysis in some polymers. This project made an important step toward having
the ability to quantitatively estimate the radiolytic response to specific radiation and to
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Jay A. LaVerne, Principal Investigator. Hazardous Gas Production by Alpha Particles, report, November 26, 2001; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc743197/m1/3/: accessed August 14, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.