Alternative materials for radioactive materials containment

December 26, 2006

Materials issues with safe storage and disposal of radioactive waste streams have been a major challenge for materials scientists. Nuclear weapons and power production in the United States, Former Soviet Union countries, and Europe have left behind Other countries relying heavily on nuclear power production, such as France, India, China, and South Korea, are also accumulating radioactive waste. Containment of these waste streams, especially that of high-level waste over a geological time scale, and high activity waste over several decades till the activity of fission products is diminished to an acceptable level, needs novel and tailored materials.

Repository designs for storage of nuclear materials are also an area of intense activity. These designs need novel materials that are stable in extreme environments and hence their development is a major challenge in materials science.

Borosilicate and phosphate glasses are preferred materials for high-level radioactive waste containment in the United States and Russia. While significant research is still underway in waste glass, several novel low cost materials, such as cement grouts, chemically bonded phosphate ceramics (Ceramicrete), and novel mineral forms such as Synrock are being pursued. Materials issues related to these alternative waste forms need attention to produce mature formulations of alternative waste forms. Their microstructure will play a major role not only in their short-term performance, but also in their behavior over a geological time scale, in particular, in arresting leaching of the radioactive contaminants into the environment. The durability of the matrix will also depend on the predetermined microstructure and mineralogy. Therefore, research in structure and chemistry of these alternative waste forms is crucial to the successful development of alternative waste forms. The process designs and test methods etc. will also have to be suitably altered for use of these materials. This conference will address recent development in materials aspects of alternative waste forms and their implications on process designs and test methods.

Stabilization and containment of nuclear materials have become urgent needs because of the Homeland Security concerns in countries that use nuclear energy and store nuclear materials. Continuing materials research is responding significantly to these needs. The purpose of this conference is to provide a platform to discuss recent advances in issues relating to safe storage of nuclear materials.

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) between the United States and the Former Soviet Union (and now the Russian Federation) has led to international cooperation between various countries such as the United States, Russia, and Ukraine in research and development in radioactive waste storage and disposal. This has led to a need for frequent forums for discussion between the scientists conducting R & D work in the United States and Europe. The last conference in materials issues of radioactive waste disposal and containment was held in Alyeska resort (Alaska) in January 2004. This follow up conference in Italy, an avenue midway between the United States and Eastern Europe, will invite the international community involved in cooperative projects on alternative waste form development.

The primary objective of this conference is to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of ideas on the state-of-the-art in recent advances in materials science that address needs of radioactive waste packaging and short and long term storage of nuclear materials. It will also include alternative processes resulting from the use of novel materials that can be very effective in stabilization of nuclear waste. The conference will provide an opportunity for exchange of ideas in syntheses and properties of novel and emerging ceramics, cements, other mineral based materials, and their composites that are candidates as alternative waste forms. The participants from federal laboratories, industry, and universities, will discuss new developments and current challenges in syntheses of materials for extreme environments. The presentation and discussion will focus on both basic science and technology aspects. This will result in an improved understanding of the science and technology base that will serve to accelerate the development of alternative waste forms and containment materials with enhanced properties and performance.

The novel materials and processes must be compatible with the policies regarding the storage of nuclear materials and disposal of waste streams. This conference will include sessions on policy issues that affect use of the alternative stabilization processes.

The weeklong conference provides morning and late afternoon/early evening sessions in which invited presentations are made. Available time is included during the afternoons for ad hoc meetings, informal discussions, and/or recreation. The format is designed to enhance rapport among participants and promote dialogue from various communities.

To encourage attendance by active researchers in this field, participants are required to submit a poster paper relevant to the theses of the conference.

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