Some hope that nuclear power will help to replace fossil fuel use. New data suggest radioactive waste storage technology will fail.

Current model for storing nuclear waste is incomplete

Study finds the materials — glass, ceramics and stainless steel — interact to accelerate corrosion

The team’s research focused on storage materials for high-level nuclear waste — primarily defense waste, the legacy of past nuclear arms production. The waste is highly radioactive. While some types of the waste have half-lives of about 30 years, others — for example, plutonium — have a half-life that can be tens of thousands of years. 

... the long-term plan for high-level defense waste disposal and storage around the globe is largely the same. It involves mixing the nuclear waste with other materials to form glass or ceramics, and then encasing those pieces of glass or ceramics — now radioactive — inside metallic canisters. The canisters then would be buried deep underground in a repository to isolate it.

In this study, the researchers found that when exposed to an aqueous environment, glass and ceramics interact with stainless steel to accelerate corrosion, especially of the glass and ceramic materials holding nuclear waste.

The study qualitatively measured the difference between accelerated corrosion and natural corrosion of the storage materials. Guo called it “severe.”

“In the real-life scenario, the glass or ceramic waste forms would be in close contact with stainless steel canisters. Under specific conditions, the corrosion of stainless steel will go crazy,” he said. “It creates a super-aggressive environment that can corrode surrounding materials.”

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Truly something we can't / shouldn't dismiss... no matter how likely or not nuclear power plant accidents might be. "Safely" stored nuclear waste becoming a ticking time bomb isn't something we should want to leave our children or grandchildren!

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