Current Magazine

Virginia Tech to Develop Robust Material for Nuclear Waste Packaging

Posted on the 10 October 2013 by Dailyfusion @dailyfusion
Nuclear Waste Container coming out of Nevada Test Site on public roads. (Credit: Bill Ebbesen, Nuclear Waste Container coming out of Nevada Test Site on public roads. (Credit: Bill Ebbesen,

Virginia Tech’s nuclear engineering program has received a $800,000, three-year award to develop an outer shield material for nuclear waste packaging. Leigh Winfrey, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and her colleague Mohamed Bourham , professor of nuclear engineering of N.C. State, received this research contract.

“The integrity and survivability of a nuclear waste package is critically important in the transport of nuclear fuel and high-level waste,” said Winfrey, who co-holds four invention disclosures related to novel electrothermal plasmas that are used in applications ranging from fusion reactor fueling to weaponry to combustion to materials deposition technologies.

In her research with Bourham, who is one of the co-holders of the invention disclosures, Winfrey says she hopes to develop an outer shield material for use in nuclear waste packaging that is resistant to corrosion, radiation, diffusion, and thermal cycling processes that affect fuel packages during long-term storage. The material will also need to be wear-tolerant and mechanically robust so that it can survive repeated handling and transportation.

Based on her earlier research, Winfrey said the development of this new multi-layer composite coating will provide the robust material needed to insure safe long-term storage of high-level waste and its safe transport. Winfrey’s proposed package shielding should provide a barrier to prevent water, dirt, and chemical contaminants from the atmosphere or the soil from making contact with waste packages that would damage and weaken them during long-term storage.

“Further, the coating material incorporates components that protect the structural materials used in the packages and enhances their mechanical properties so that the waste package may be moved or transported as necessary over the storage lifetime,” Winfrey explained.

The coating is different from existing protective shields in that it is not a thermal coat that is sprayed onto the material. Rather, it will be a three-component coating that provides the multi-purpose barrier. “Through this research effort, the team will develop multi-component, multi-layered coatings and will evaluate and optimize a three-component coating for the outside of waste packages that will provide a multi-purpose barrier,” Winfrey added.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog