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Solving the high level nuclear waste problem.

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[joint with Dept. Seminar]

Many thousands of tonnes of high-level nuclear waste (HLW) in the form of spent fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors or as tank wastes from weapons production exist around the world. Fifty-odd years of international research on HLW disposition is put in some perspective. It will be argued that understanding of appropriate technology and waste form materials already exists for appropriate disposition of much of the HLW . However different HLWs have different chemical characteristics and the exponents of different technologies do not yet agree which are the best solutions for given HLWs, creating the illusion that the technical basis of the “nuclear waste problem” remains unsolved.

Of course repository siting remains controversial and the regulatory situation for final disposition of HLW is not totally clear. Some research issues need to be clarified further, for instance long-term aqueous dissolution of various waste forms, especially when substantial radiation damage from actinide decay has occurred. Also if and when fuel recycling becomes the norm, different waste streams for immobilisation will be created and will require demonstration before implementation.

This talk is part of the Mineral Sciences Seminars series.

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