Jincheng Du, an internationally recognized researcher on materials for nuclear waste disposal and professor in UNT's College of Engineering, found that the corrosion of stainless steel containers used to store nuclear waste accelerates the breakdown of the glass or ceramic waste forms they contain, leading to much more rapid deterioration.
This finding means the current models of storage site longevity need to be corrected and further research is needed to understand the effect of material interactions during corrosion of waste packages. These systems that are expected to last for hundreds of thousands of years until radioactivity dies down to a safe level could fail sooner, leading to potential release and contamination.
"This new discovery sheds light on the important aspect of waste form research. We should not only pay attention to the corrosion of individual types of materials but also how their interactions affect each other's corrosion rate during the nuclear waste form development," Du says.