The hydration of an outer layer on nuclear waste glasses is known to occur during leaching, but the actual speciation of hydrogen (as water or hydroxyl groups) in these layers has not been determined. As part of the Nevada Nuclear Waste Storage Investigations Project, we have used infrared spectroscopy to determine hydrogen speciations in three nuclear waste glass compositions (SRL-131 & 165, and PNL 76-68), which were leached at 90°C (all glasses) or hydrated in a vapor-saturated atmosphere at 202°C (SRL-131 only). Hydroxyl groups were found in the surface layers of all the glasses. In addition, molecular water was found in the surface of SRL-131 and PNL 76-68 glasses that had been leached for several months in deionized water, and in the vapor-hydrated sample. The water/hydroxyl ratio increases with increasing reaction time; molecular water makes up most of the hydrogen in the thick reaction layers on vapor-phase hydrated glass while only hydroxyl occurs in the least reacted samples. Using the known molar absorptivities of water and hydroxyl in silica-rich glass the vapor-phase layer contained 4.8 moles/liter of molecular water, and 0.6 moles water in the form hydroxyl. A 15 micrometer layer on SRL-131 glass formed by leaching at 90°C contained a total of 4.9 moles/liter of water, 2/3 of which was as hydroxyl. The unreacted bulk glass contains about 0.018 moles/liter water, all as hydroxyl.
The amount of hydrogen added to the SRL-131 glass was about 70% of the original Na + Li content, not the 300% that would result from alkali-hydronium ion (H30+) interdiffusion. If all the hydrogen is then assumed to be added as the result of alkali-H+ interdiffusion, the molecular water observed may have formed from condensation of the original hydroxyl groups according to:
20H = H20 molecular + 00
where 00 refers to a bridging oxygen, and OH refers to a hydroxyl group attached to a silicate polymer. The hydrated layer on the nuclear waste glasses appears to be of relatively low water content (4 to 7% by weight) and is not substantially hydroxylated. Thus, these layers do not have many of the properties associated with “gel” layers.