Volume 95, Issue 11, 01 June 2004
Index of content:
- APPLIED PHYSICS REVIEWS - FOCUSED REVIEW
Nuclear waste disposal—pyrochlore Nuclear waste form for the immobilization of plutonium and “minor” actinides95(2004); http://dx.doi.org/10.1063/1.1707213View Description Hide Description
During the past half-century, the nuclear fuel cycle has generated approximately 1400 metric tons of plutonium and substantial quantities of the “minor” actinides, such as Np, Am, and Cm. The successful disposition of these actinides has an important impact on the strategy for developing advanced nuclear fuel cycles, weapons proliferation, and the geologic disposal of high-level radioactive waste. During the last decade, there has been substantial interest in the use of the isometric pyrochlore structure-type, for the immobilization of actinides. Most of the interest has focused on titanate-pyrochlore because of its chemical durability; however, these compositions experience a radiation-induced transition from the crystalline-to-aperiodic state due to radiation damage from the alpha-decay of actinides. Depending on the actinide concentration, the titanate pyrochlore will become amorphous in less than 1000 years of storage. Recently, systematic ion beam irradiations of a variety of pyrochlore compositions has revealed that many zirconate pyrochlores do not become amorphous, but remain crystalline as a defect fluorite structure-type due to disordering of the A- and B-site cations. The zirconate pyrochlores will remain crystalline even to very high doses, greater than 100 displacements per atom. Systematic experimental studies of actinide-doped and ion beam-irradiated pyrochlore, analyses of natural U- and Th-bearing pyrochlore, and simulations of the energetics of the disordering process now provide a rather detailed understanding of the structural and chemical controls on the response of pyrochlore to radiation. These results provide a solid basis for predicting the behavior and durability of pyrochlore used to immobilize plutonium.