Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Hydrogen Protects Nuclear Fuel In Final Storage

Date:
April 23, 2009
Source:
Chalmers University of Technology
Summary:
When Sweden's spent nuclear fuel is to be permanently stored, it will be protected by three different barriers. Even if all three barriers are damaged, the nuclear fuel will not dissolve into the groundwater, according to new research.

In the Swedish method for final storage of nuclear fuel, the first barrier consist of a copper capsule, the second barrier of bentonite clay, and the third barrier of 500 meters of granite bedrock.
Credit: SKB/Jan M. Rojmar - Grafiska Illustrationer

By midsummer it will be announced where Sweden's spent nuclear fuel will be permanently stored. Ahead of the decision a debate is underway regarding how safe the method for final storage is, primarily in terms of the three barriers that are intended to keep radioactive material from leaking into the surrounding groundwater.

Related Articles


But according to the new doctoral dissertation, uranium would not be dissolved by the water even if all three barriers were compromised.

"This is a result of what we call the hydrogen effect," says Patrik Fors, who is defending his thesis in nuclear chemistry at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. "The hydrogen effect was discovered in 2000. It's a powerful effect that was not factored in when plans for permanent storage began to be forged, and now I have shown that it's even more powerful than was previously thought."

The hydrogen effect is predicated on the existence of large amounts of iron in connection with the nuclear fuel. In the Swedish method for final storage, the first barrier consists of a copper capsule that is reinforced with iron. The second barrier is a buffer of bentonite clay, and the third is 500 meters of granite bedrock. Some other countries have chosen to make the first barrier entirely of iron.

It is known that microorganisms and fissure minerals in the rock will consume all the oxygen in the groundwater. If all three barriers were to be damaged, the iron in the capsule would therefore be anaerobically corroded by the water, producing large amounts of hydrogen. In final storage at a depth of 500 meters, a pressure of at least 5 megapascals of hydrogen would be created.

Patrik Fors has now created these conditions in the laboratory and examined three different types of spent nuclear fuel. All of the trials showed that the hydrogen protects the fuel from being dissolved in the water, even though the highly radioactive fuels create a corrosive environment in the water as a result of their radiation. The reason for the protective effect is that the hydrogen prevents the uranium from oxidizing and converting to liquid form.

Furthermore, the hydrogen makes the oxidized uranium that already exists as a liquid in the water shift to a solid state. The outcome was that the amount of uranium found dissolved in the water, after experiments lasting several years, was lower than the natural levels in Swedish groundwater.

"The hydrogen effect will prevent the dissolution of nuclear fuel until the fuel's radioactivity is so low that it need no longer be considered a hazard," says Patrik Fors. The amount of iron in the capsules is so great that it would produce sufficient hydrogen to protect the fuel for tens of thousands of years.

Patrik Fors carried out his experiments at the Institute for Transuranium Elements in Karlsruhe, Germany, in a joint project with Chalmers. The institute is operated by the European Commission. The research was also funded by SKB, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Chalmers University of Technology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Chalmers University of Technology. "Hydrogen Protects Nuclear Fuel In Final Storage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090421080405.htm>.
Chalmers University of Technology. (2009, April 23). Hydrogen Protects Nuclear Fuel In Final Storage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090421080405.htm
Chalmers University of Technology. "Hydrogen Protects Nuclear Fuel In Final Storage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090421080405.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Who Will Failed Nuclear Talks Hurt Most?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) With no immediate prospect of sanctions relief for Iran, and no solid progress in negotiations with the West over the country's nuclear programme, Ciara Lee asks why talks have still not produced results and what a resolution would mean for both parties. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Flying Enthusiast Converts Real-Life Aircraft Cockpit Into Simulator

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 25, 2014) A virtual flying enthusiast converts parts of a written-off Airbus aircraft into a working flight simulator in his northern Slovenian home. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Car Park Solution for Flexible Green Energy

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 24, 2014) A British solar power start-up says that by covering millions of existing car park spaces around the UK with flexible solar panels, the country's power problems could be solved. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Microsoft Adds Robot Guards, Ushers In Sci-Fi Apocalypse

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Microsoft has robotic security guards working at its Silicon Valley Campus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins