Letter | Published:

Interactions between nuclear waste and surrounding rock


DISSOLUTION and transport of radionuclides by ground-water are the main threats to the effective isolation of radioactive wastes by burial in deep geological formations. Calcine and glass are two solid forms which have been studied in this way for radioactive waste disposal. Long term release rates, based on extractions of radionuclides by simulated groundwater at 25 °C and atmospheric pressure, are projected to be very low from borosilicate glass, the most favourable candidate waste form. We present here evidence that contact with pressurised water at the 200–400 °C temperatures that could occur near the waste in the early years of storage rapidly alters the borosilicate glass and promotes interactions between waste and both shale and basalt repository wall rocks. The specific examples are the formation of a uranyl silicate (weeksite) directly from hydrothermal alteration of the glass and the reaction of caesium and sodium from calcine with aluminosilicates in basalt and shale to form the caesium sodium aluminosilicate, pollucite.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Cohen, B. L. Rev. mod. Phys. 49, 1–19 (1977); Scient. Am. 236, 21–31 (1977).

  2. 2

    de Marsily, G., Ledoux, E., Barbreau, A. & Margat, J. Science 197, 519–527 (1977).

  3. 3

    Culler, F., Jr. (ed.)Proc. Int. Symp. Management of Waste from the LWR Fuel Cycle (US Energy Research and Development Administration, CONF-76-0701, 1976).

  4. 4

    McCarthy, G. J. Nucl. Technol. 32, 92–105 (1977).

  5. 5

    Dé, A. K., Luckscheiter, B., Lutze, W., Malow, G. & Schiewer, E. Am. ceram. Soc. Bull. 55, 500–503 (1976).

  6. 6

    Hespe, E. D. Atomic Energy Rev. 9, 1–9 (1971).

  7. 7

    Mendel, J. E. (ed.) A. Rep. Characteristics of High-Level Waste Glasses (US Energy Research and Development Administration Report BNWL-2252, Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories, 1977).

  8. 8

    Jenks, G. H. in NWTS Conf. on Waste-Rock Interactions (US Energy Research and Development Administration Report Y/OWI/SUB-77/14268, 5016, 1977).

  9. 9

    Roy, R. & Tuttle, O. F. in Physics and Chemistry of the Earth 1, 138–180 (Pergamon, London, 1956).

  10. 10

    Roy, R. J. Am. ceram. Soc. 39, 145–146 (1956).

  11. 11

    Hawkins, D. B. & Roy, R. Geochim. cosmochim. Acta 27, 1047–1054 (1963).

  12. 12

    McElroy, J. L. (ed.) Research and Development Activities, Waste Fixation Program (US Energy Research and Development Administration, BNWL-1908, Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories, 1975).

  13. 13

    Komarneni, S., McCarthy, G. J. & Gallagher, S. A. Inorg. nucl. chem. Lett. (in the press).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.