The study of radiation effects in complex silicate glasses has received renewed attention because of their use in special applications such as high level nuclear waste immobilization and fiber optics. Radiation changes the properties of these glasses by altering their electronic and atomic configurations. These alterations or defects may cause dilatations or microscopic phase changes along with absorption centers that limit the optical application of the glasses. Atomic displacements induced in the already disordered structure of the glasses may affect their use where heavy irradiating particles such as alpha particles, alpha recoils, fission fragments, or accelerated ions are present. Large changes (up to 1%) in density may result. In some cases the radiation damage may be severe enough to affect the durability of the glass in aqueous solutions.
In this paper, we review the literature concerning radiation effects on density, durability, stored energy, microstructure and optical properties of silicate glasses. Both simple glasses and complex glasses used for immobilization of nuclear waste are considered.