Effects of radiation on the leach rates of vitrified radioactive waste

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This report reviews the possible effects of both radiation damage to the glass and of radiolysis of the leachant on the leaching behaviour of vitrified radioactive waste. It has been stimulated particularly by recent papers, which have suggested that the leach rates of glasses will be enhanced by large factors after a 'critical' dose of radiation from alpha decays. These experiments have been conducted at highly accelerated rates using ion beams. The relationship between these experiments and the situation in vitrified waste has been assessed, taking into account the fact that experiments using alpha emitters incorporated in the glass have failed to find significantly enhanced leach rates after doses about five times larger than those equivalent to this 'critical' dose. It is concluded that these differences are observed partly because the ion beam experiments are carried out at such high dose rates that some recovery effects important at lower rates do not come into play. In the case of experiments with 2 keV argon ions, surface effects other than genuine radiation damage must be taken into account. In practice, if water has penetrated the canister, vitrified waste will be irradiated in the presence of the leaching solution. Enhancements of the leach rate due to the transient effects of radiation in the solid are shown to be completely negligible. The effects of radiolysis of the leaching solution and of any air in contact with the solution have also been considered in some detail and related to recent experiments by McVay and Pederson. It is shown that these radiolysis effects will not lead to any situations requiring special precautions in practice, although changes in surface leach rate by small factors can be expected under some circumstances. Any effect of irradiation on leach rates must be seen in the context of a waste repository. Along with other studies we hold the view that the rate of loss of material will be limited by the access of water to the repository, and will therefore depend on the effective saturation solubility of the glass in the leachant, not on the leach rate as usually determined in laboratory tests. Radiation damage is not expected to change the saturation solubility by more than a factor of two or three. © 1982.




Burns, W. G., Hughes, A. E., Marples, J. A. C., Nelson, R. S., & Stoneham, A. M. (1982). Effects of radiation on the leach rates of vitrified radioactive waste. Journal of Nuclear Materials. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-3115(82)90424-X

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