Electricity production from nuclear power plants generates radioactive wastes, the management of which represents a major industrial and environmental concern. Thus, low- or intermediate - level radioactive aqueous waste streams may be concentrated by evaporation, and immobilized with a Portland cement, before being sent to disposal. Nevertheless, interactions may occur between some components of the waste and the cement phases or aggregates, and decrease the stability of the final waste forms. Thereby, the formation of a gel-like product has been recently observed on the surface of some cemented drums of evaporator concentrates which were produced in the 80’s in Belgium. This product results from a reaction between silica from the aggregates and the very alkaline pore solution of the concrete. However, its composition and rheological properties differ from those reported for alkali-silica gels in civil engineering. Extensive work has been performed to better understand the processes involved in the gel formation within the cement-waste forms and characterize its properties. Based on these results, the post-doctoral project will be focussed on the mitigation of alkali silica reaction in cement-waste forms. Two approaches will be more particularly investigated by decreasing the water saturation ratio of concrete and/or the pH of its pore solution using supercritical carbonation.
This project is intended for a post-doctoral fellow wishing to develop skills in materials science, with an interest in advancing the field of cement chemistry and improving the conditioning of radioactive waste. It will be performed in collaboration with ONDRAF-NIRAS, the Agency in charge of radioactive waste management in Belgium, and will build upon the expertise of two laboratories at CEA Marcoule: the Cements and Bitumen for Waste Conditioning Laboratory for materials elaboration and characterization, and the Supercritical and Decontamination Laboratory.