Thermochemical processing of reactor graphite waste is based on self-sustaining reaction 4Al + 3TiO2 + 3C = 3TiC + 2Al2O3 which chemically binds 14C from the irradiated graphite in the titanium carbide. Thermochemical processing was investigated to analyse the behaviour of rare earth elements (REE), where REE = Y, La, Ce, Nd, Sm, Eu and Gd. Both thermodynamic simulations and laboratory scale experiments were used. The REEs in the irradiated reactor graphite are formed as activation products of impurities and spread over the graphite bricks surfaces as well as arise from fission of nuclear fuel. REEs can be used also to substitute for waste actinides as well as to increase the durability of carbide-corundum ceramics relative to waste actinides.
Thermodynamic calculations and X-ray diffraction analysis of ceramic specimens synthesized revealed that durable REE's aluminates with perovskite, β-alumina and garnet structures are formed by interaction of REE oxides with the Al2O3 melt during the selfpropagating reaction of ceramic formation.
The porous carbide-corundum ceramics synthesized have a high hydrolytic durability, e.g. the normalised leaching rates of 137Cs, 90Sr and Nd are of the order of 10–7 – 10–8 g/(cm2·day).