Record synchrotron light experiment investigates nuclear waste materials

11 July 2017

Researchers from the University of Sheffield in the UK, in partnership with the Diamond Light Source, researching transformations in nuclear waste materials, on 4 July saw their experiment become the longest running synchrotron light experiment in the world at 1,000 days.

Diamond is the UK's national synchrotron science facility, funded by the UK government through the Science and Technology Facilities Council in partnership with the Wellcome Trust.

The research, led by Sheffield University’s Dr Claire Corkhill used Diamond's Long Duration Experimental (LDE) facility to investigate the long-term behaviour of cement used in nuclear waste storage and disposal. The LDE was commissioned in 2014. “These cements are being used to safely lock away the radioactive elements in nuclear waste for timescales of more than 10,000 years, so it is extremely important that we can accurately predict the properties of these materials in the future,” Dr Corkhill explained.

She added: “The unique facility at Diamond has allowed us to follow this reaction in situ, for 1,000 days, and the data is already allowing us to identify particular phases that will safely lock away radioactive elements in 1,000 years’ time, something we would otherwise not have been able to determine.” Dr Corkhill is planning to return to Diamond to investigate the reaction of these phases with uranium, technetium and plutonium on one of the X-ray absorption spectroscopy beamlines.   Results from the studies are being used to support the ongoing safety case development for the disposal of nuclear waste in a deep geological repository, according to UK governmental policy.

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