Description: Not all the nuclear waste destined for Yucca Mountain is in the form of spent fuel. Some of it will be radioactive waste generated from the production of nuclear weapons. This so-called defense waste exists mainly as corrosive liquids and sludge in underground tanks. An essential task of the U.S. high-level radioactive waste program is to process these defense wastes into a solid material--called a waste form. An ideal waste form would be extremely durable and unreactive with other repository materials. It would be simple to fabricate remotely so that it could be safely transported to a repository for permanent storage. What's more, the material should be able to tolerate exposure to intense radiation without degradation. And to minimize waste volume, the material must be able to contain high concentrations of radionuclides. The material most likely to be used for immobilization of radioactive waste is glass. Glasses are produced by rapid cooling of high-temperature liquids such that the liquid-like non-periodic structure is preserved at lower temperatures. This rapid cooling does not allow enough time for thermodynamically stable crystalline phases (mineral species) to form. In spite of their thermodynamic instability, glasses can persist for millions of years. An alternate to glass is a ceramic waste form--an assemblage of mineral-like crystalline solids that incorporate radionuclides into their structures. The crystalline phases are thermodynamically stable at the temperature of their synthesis; ceramics therefore tend to be more durable than glasses. Ceramic waste forms are fabricated at temperatures below their melting points and so avoid the danger of handling molten radioactive liquid--a danger that exists with incorporation of waste in glasses. The waste form provides a repository's first line of defense against release of radionuclides. It, along with the canister, is the barrier in the repository over which we have the most control. When ...
Date: July 20, 2004
Creator: Bourcier, W. L. & Sickafus, K.
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department