US at risk of ecological disaster due to improperly stored nuclear waste
The United States does not currently have a landfill for nuclear waste from the defence industry, which is normally stored inside metal canisters buried underground near the nuclear plants where it was produced.
The United States could face the risk of nuclear contamination due to inadequate nuclear waste storage methods, a new publication in the journal Nature Materials revealed.
According to the lead scientist behind the research, Xiaolei Guo, the existing techniques are insufficient to keep waste stored safely, as the material used in the current storage methods quickly becomes corroded, raising the risk of nuclear waste leaking into the soil, water and air.
The research team carried out an experiment in simulated conditions under Yucca Mountain where the US waste repository is expected to be built. They found that the corrosion level of stainless steel, used in storage canisters, was ‘severe’ due to chemical reactions being accelerated by nuclear waste.
“In the real-life scenario, the glass or ceramic waste forms would be in close contact with stainless steel canisters. It creates a super-aggressive environment that can corrode surrounding materials”, Guo said.
According to the scientist, if the casing of the containers gets damaged, the high-level radioactive material could cause ecological devastation.