Composite cements where large amounts of blast furnace slag (BFS) replace Portland cement are currently used for immobilisation of ILW. Hydration of BFS is activated by the small amount of OPC present but the amount of reaction that occurs is limited at ambient temperatures. Increasing the temperature increases the hydration of the BFS but large amounts still remain unreacted, leaving a porous matrix where the capillary pores remain filled with a highly alkaline solution. This solution causes corrosion of reactive metals giving rise to expansive reactions and hydrogen release, and it can destroy the structure of zeolites releasing the adsorbed species.
Apart from OPC, BFS hydration can be activated by other compounds such as hydroxides, sulphates, silicates, and calcium aluminate cements. The use of these alternatives gives rise to binders such as ettringite and strätlingite which have a different chemistry where the pore solution has a lower pH. Corrosion of metals does not readily occur in these binders. This may be due to the reduced pH but could also arise from the lack of pore water, as these binders bind more water in their structure so that it is not available for transport of ionic species. This extra water binding also has potential for immobilisation of sludges where high w/s ratios are necessitated by the need to transport the sludge.
This paper will review some of the alternative activators for slag hydration and present experimental results on several systems where slag has been activated with compounds other than OPC.