10:59 AM

​Ohio State University to receive $10M for nuclear waste disposal research

COLUMBUS, Ohio—The Ohio State University is among four sites around the country chosen for new research centers by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today.

The Center for Performance and Design of Nuclear Waste Forms and Containers (WastePD) will receive $10 million over the next four years, and will be the first of DOE’s 36 Energy Frontier Research Centers nationwide to be headquartered in the state of Ohio.

WastePD’s goal will be to “accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to support the DOE’s environmental management and nuclear cleanup mission” through “basic research aimed at assisting with the cleanup of hazardous waste that resulted from decades of nuclear weapons research and production during the 20th century,” DOE announced today.

Gerald Frankel, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, will lead WastePD, which will bring together expertise from several partner universities and laboratories nationwide.

“DOE is responsible for cleaning up the environmental legacy associated with making nuclear weapons, which will take many more decades,” Frankel said. “WastePD will develop the underlying science that will enable to development of solutions to problems that DOE will have in the next 10 to 20 years.”

Frankel and his team will study materials at the atomic level, with the idea of making discoveries that will lead to future cleanup and storage technologies—a daunting task, since nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel today exist in various forms, including liquids, solids, and sludge.

Specifically, the Ohio State researchers and their partners will aim to understand how such waste might be converted into stable solids that are unlikely to degrade—and, thus, unlikely to leak radiation—for hundreds of thousands of years. Ultimately, the waste may be incorporated into new glass or ceramic materials, or even new kinds of metals.

The research will not involve any use of radioactive waste on campus. Rather, the researchers will work to design new materials that will contain nuclear waste.

“The primary performance criterion for nuclear waste forms is their resistance to degradation in the storage and repository environments over long periods. Ohio State is an ideal place for this research, since our Fontana Corrosion Center is a world leader in the environmental degradation of materials,” Frankel added.

In 2014, DOE created 32 Energy Frontier Research Centers nationwide. With this latest award, DOE is establishing four new centers headquartered in Ohio State, Florida State University, the University of South Carolina and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“Science underpins every mission of the Department of Energy,” said Cherry Murray, director of DOE’s Office of Science. “These new Energy Frontier Research Centers will provide a foundation of basic science for a top priority of DOE - tackling environmental cleanup of hazardous waste from nuclear weapons research and production. These projects bring together talent and leadership from top scientists to solve problems through scientific discovery.”