Immobilisation of high level nuclear reactor wastes in SYNROC

Abstract

The elements occurring in high-level nuclear reactor wastes can be safely immobilised by incorporating them within the crystal lattices of the constituent minerals of a synthetic rock (SYNROC). The preferred form of SYNROC can accept up to 20% of high level waste calcine to form dilute solid solutions. The constituent minerals, or close structural analogues, have survived in a wide range of geochemical environments for periods of 20–2,000 Myr whilst immobilising the same elements present in nuclear wastes. SYNROC is unaffected by leaching for 24 h in pure water or 10 wt % NaCl solution at high temperatures and pressure whereas borosilicate glasses completely decompose in a few hours in much less severe hydrothermal conditions. The combination of these leaching results with the geological evidence of long-term stability indicates that SYNROC would be vastly superior to glass in its capacity to safely immobilise nuclear wastes, when buried in a suitable geological repository. A dense, compact, mechanically strong form of SYNROC suitable for geological disposal can be produced by a process as economical as that which incorporates radwaste in borosilicate glasses.

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Ringwood, A., Kesson, S., Ware, N. et al. Immobilisation of high level nuclear reactor wastes in SYNROC. Nature 278, 219–223 (1979). https://doi.org/10.1038/278219a0

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