EMSL Magnetic Resonance Users Quantify Radiation Damage in Actinide Waste Containment Material


Users of the William R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) have improved the fundamental understanding and predictive models that support the informative evaluation of the long-term stability of materials proposed for immobilization of actinide wastes. Scientists from the University of Cambridge and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) presented research in an article in this week’s Nature (Vol 445, pg 190-193) that analyzes the impacts of alpha-emitters on the crystalline structure of zircon. These results measured significantly more atoms displaced by each alpha-disintegration in zircon than had previously been estimated. The authors were also able to show that damage in synthetic plutonium-doped zircon samples is likely to be consistent with damage resulting from long-term, lower-level exposure experienced by naturally occurring, uranium-containing zircons. Portions of this research were conducted using the EMSL, a DOE national scientific user facility at PNNL. EMSL scientists collaborated on the development of triple containment rotor technology and provided user access for the radiological nuclear magnetic resonance magic-angle spinning analysis. This publication highlights how EMSL’s unique capabilities attract international users and collaborators and promote high-impact science.