Comparison of spent fuel corrosion data from nuclear waste management projects in Canada, Sweden and the USA strongly suggests that the release of 90Sr to the leachant can be used as a measure of the degradation (oxidation/dissolution) of the fuel matrix. A surprisingly quantitative similarity in the 90 Sr release data for fuel of various types (BWR, PWR, Candu), linear power ratings and burnups leached under oxic conditions was observed in the comparison. After 1000 days of leachant contact, static or sequential, the fractional release rates for 90Sr (and for cesium nuclides) were of the order of 10−7/d.
The rate of spent fuel degradation (alteration) under oxic conditions can be considered to be controlled either by the growth rates of secondary alteration products, by oxygen diffusion through a product layer, by the rate of formation of radiolytic oxidants or by solubility-controlled dissolution of the matrix. These processes are discussed. Methods for determining upper limits for long-term 90Sr release, and hence fuel degradation, have been derived from the experimental data and consideration of radiolytic oxidant production.