The current route in the UK for the conditioning and immobilization of most intermediate level waste for interim storage and geological disposal is to encapsulate in a cementitious matrix. However, certain waste materials, such as those containing reactive metals (e.g. uranium and aluminium), can corrode in the presence of the highly alkaline water in a cementitious environment. In their initial, undegraded form, polymeric materials can provide the appropriate, unreactive environment needed for the encapsulation of chemically active metals.
This study examines the effects of gamma radiation on the stability of six candidate polymeric encapsulants, including a vinyl ester styrene resin (VES) and five epoxy resin formulations. The polymeric encapsulants were exposed to radiation doses up to 10 MGy using AMEC's cobalt-60 gamma irradiation facility and their radiation and chemical stability characterized by the use of a number of analytical techniques. These included flexural and compressive testing, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), gel fraction, leach testing and gas evolution. The results show that the most stable resin in terms of radiation resistance and chemical stability was VES. Most of the epoxy resin materials also showed good generic stability, but the FTIR analysis showed the potential for dose-rate effects in one formulation.