Self-accelerated corrosion of nuclear waste forms at material interfaces

Abstract

The US plan for high-level nuclear waste includes the immobilization of long-lived radionuclides in glass or ceramic waste forms in stainless-steel canisters for disposal in deep geological repositories. Here we report that, under simulated repository conditions, corrosion could be significantly accelerated at the interfaces of different barrier materials, which has not been considered in the current safety and performance assessment models. Severe localized corrosion was found at the interfaces between stainless steel and a model nuclear waste glass and between stainless steel and a ceramic waste form. The accelerated corrosion can be attributed to changes of solution chemistry and local acidity/alkalinity within a confined space, which significantly alter the corrosion of both the waste-form materials and the metallic canisters. The corrosion that is accelerated by the interface interaction between dissimilar materials could profoundly impact the service life of the nuclear waste packages, which, therefore, should be carefully considered when evaluating the performance of waste forms and their packages. Moreover, compatible barriers should be selected to further optimize the performance of the geological repository system.

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Fig. 1: Illustration of crevice corrosion for a SS canister and the potential impact on contained nuclear waste forms.
Fig. 2: Characterizations of different materials after corrosion in close proximity.
Fig. 3: Surface analysis of SS after corrosion in close proximity to ISG or PTFE.
Fig. 4: Precipitation of secondary phases on SS corroded near ISG.
Fig. 5: Surface characterizations of SS and Cr-Hol after corrosion.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported as part of the Center for Performance and Design of Nuclear Waste Forms and Containers, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences under Award no. DESC0016584. The authors thank C. Crawford for supplying the ISG. The authors are grateful to S. Boona and E. L. Alexander from Ohio State University and L. Dupuy from TESCAN Analytics, as well as M. J. Olszta and N. Overman from PNNL for the technical support.

Author information

X.G., S.G., J.L., S.H.K., J.D.V., J.V.R., J.D. and G.S.F designed the research. X.G., P.L., T.Y., H.L., D.K.S. D.N. and G.V. performed the research. X.G., S.G., P.L., T.Y., H.L., D.K.S., D.N. and S.H.K. analysed the data. All the authors contributed to the editing of the paper and the approval of the content in its current form.

Correspondence to Gerald S. Frankel.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary text, Tables 1–5, Figs. 1–5 and references.

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Guo, X., Gin, S., Lei, P. et al. Self-accelerated corrosion of nuclear waste forms at material interfaces. Nat. Mater. 19, 310–316 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-019-0579-x

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