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Because of their amorphous structure, glasses are particularly suitable matrixes for the solidification of the mixture of radionuclides included in the high level wastes from reactor fuel reprocessing. They are not sensitive to variations in the fractions present of different waste oxides and are resistent to the effects of irradiation. In particular, borosilicate glasses have been investigated for around 25 years and the vitrification techniques have been tested on the technological scale.
The environmental conditions within a final waste repository are expected to be such that the chemical resistance of glasses to attack by groundwaters is of special interest. In the present report the corrosion behaviour is described, with emphasis being placed upon the most significant controlling parameters. Since experimental determination of corrosion rates must be done in relatively short-time experiments, the results of which can depend strongly upon the measurement methods employed, it is necessary to carry out a critical assessment of the techniques commonly used in laboratory work.
Experimental results are illustrated by means of selected examples. Particular emphasis is placed upon the effects of increased temperatures and of irradiation.
The models which have been proposed for the estimation of the long-term corrosion behaviour of glasses are not yet fully sufficient and improvements are required. Furthermore, the actual corrosion rates which are fed into such models must be replaced by values more appropriate for the actual environmental conditions to which the glasses are most likely to be exposed within high level waste repositories. It should be noted, however, that even with current conservative input data on corrosion rates, typical estimated lifetimes for vitrified waste blocks are of the order of 105 years.
The report concludes with recommendations concerning the most useful areas for further investigations.