New research carried out by Ohio State University has revealed significant problems with one of the key containment methods for high level nuclear waste to be used in the UK. It had previously been assumed that forming high level waste into glass or ceramics within a stainless steel canister would ensure that the waste would be isolated from its surroundings while it underwent radioactive decay. It now appears that the iron within stainless steel canister is reacting with the silicon, a fundamental constituent of glass. This leads to severe localised corrosion at a far higher rate than previously assumed. The full article can be found here.
Followers of Cumbria Trust will be aware that this is not the only example of a canister intended for the UK’s geological disposal programme which has failed to perform as expected. Another is the KBS-3 concept which used copper canisters, where some experiments have shown accelerated corrosion via a pitting process.
During the previous search for a site to bury the UK’s nuclear waste, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) attempted to deny the existence of these problems. Recently, Radioactive Waste Management (RWM), a subsidiary of the NDA, has become more open in its admission of the difficulties they face. Cumbria Trust welcomes this approach, and has had a constructive dialogue with some senior RWM figures over recent years.
Our recent experience with RWM hasn’t been entirely positive though – they have failed to exclude designated areas (such as national parks and AONBs) in the latest search process, despite overwhelming public opposition to their inclusion, and have refused to discuss this with Cumbria Trust when asked. Cumbrians might ask themselves why RWM are taking this stance…