Corrosion of nuclear waste glass in unsaturated conditions is expected to occur upon the closure of the repository galleries during disposal cell saturation in the proposed French disposal site. The objectives of the present work were to determine the alteration kinetics of the SON68 reference in such conditions. Vapor hydration tests were conducted using thin, polished SON68 glass coupons contained in stainless steel autoclaves. Temperatures ranged between 90 °C and 200 °C and the relative humidity (RH) was maintained at 91 ± 1%. Additional experiments at 175 °C and 80, 85, 90 and 95% RH were also conducted to assess the role of RH on the glass corrosion rate. The nature and extent of corrosion have been determined by characterizing the reacted glass surface with scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDS). Elemental profiling of the glass hydrated at 90 °C was studied by TOF-SIMS. The chemical composition of the external layer depends on experimental conditions. The hydration rate at 90 °C (TOF-SIMS analysis) is 10 × higher than the generally accepted final rate of SON68 in water at 90 °C (∼ 10 - 4 g m - 2 d - 1). This may indicate that the glass hydration process cannot be simulated by experiments in aqueous solution with a high S/V ratio. Subsequent leaching (corrosion in an aqueous solution) of samples weathered in water vapor showed dissolution rate values higher than those of pristine glass. This result indicates that mobile elements are trapped within the alteration products during the hydration step and it gives insight into mobility variations of the considered elements.
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