To investigate the resistance of cubic zirconia to accelerated radiation damage, which simulates effects of long term storage, 238Pu-doped polycrystalline samples of cubic zirconia, (Zr,Gd,Pu)O2, were obtained and studied using X-ray diffraction analysis (XRD), electron probe microanalysis (EPMA), optical and scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and modified MCC-1 static leach test. The ceramic material was characterized by the following chemical composition (from EPMA in wt.% element): Zr = 50.2, Gd = 15.4, Pu = 12.2. This corresponds to the estimated formula, Zr0.79Gd0.14Pu0.07O1.99. The content of 238Pu estimated was approximately 9.9 wt.%. The XRD measurements were carried out after the following cumulative doses (in alpha decay/m3 × 1023): 3, 27, 62, 110, 134, 188, 234, and 277. Even after extremely high self-irradiation, cubic zirconia retained its crystalline structure. All XRD analyses showed no phases other than a cubic fluorite-type structure. The following results of normalized Pu mass loss (NL, in g/m2, without correction for ceramic porosity) were obtained from static leach tests (in deionized water at 90°C for 28 days) for 4 cumulative doses (in alpha decay/m3 × 1023):
The results obtained confirm the high resistance of cubic zirconia to self-irradiation. This allows us to consider zirconia-based ceramic as the universal material that is suitable for actinide transmutation and geological disposal.