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Corrosion Behavior of Nuclear Waste Storage Canister Materials
AuthorGrant, John M.
Mining and Metallurgical Engineering
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The nature of interaction of mild steel nuclear waste storage containers with technetium ions is not fully known. Technetium is formed during nuclear processing and some of this technetium has leaked at the Hanford nuclear waste storage site in Washington State. It is often found as highly oxidized pertechnetate (TeO4-) anions at these storage sites which also happen to be highly alkaline and contain a significant amount of nitrate. Theoretically, pertechnetate anions can act as electron acceptors and interact with the mild steel containers and accelerate the oxidation (corrosion) of steel. It is of interest to identify if pertechnetate anions pose a corrosion hazard to the mild steel nuclear waste storage tanks, under the conditions of the storage sites, as that can accelerate the degradation of the tanks and lead to further contamination. In this thesis, the interaction of two relevant container materials, namely, steel alloys A285 and A537 with a technetium surrogate, rhenium was studied. Perrhenate was used as an analog for pertechnetate. As all isotopes of technetium are radioactive, rhenium was chosen as the experimental surrogate due to its chemical similarity to technetium. Electrochemical behavior was evaluated using potentiodynamic polarization tests, and the surface morphology was studied using optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. Potentiodynamic polarization tests were conducted in 1.0M NaNO3 + 0.1M NaOH and 1.0M NaNO3 + 0.1M NaOH + 0.02M NaReO4. Tests were performed at three different temperatures, namely, (i) room temperature, (ii) 50oC and (iii) 80oC to study the effect of higher temperatures found in the storage sites. Corrosion current, corrosion potential, anodic and cathodic Tafel slopes, polarization resistance and corrosion rates were obtained from electrochemical testing and evaluated. Increasing temperatures was found to lead to increasing corrosion rates for all samples. The data also revealed increased corrosion from sodium perrhenate on the mild steel A285 samples. The perrhenate anion (ReO4-) formed a redox couple with iron in the mild steel and accelerated metal dissolution that increased with temperature. Pitting and uniform corrosion was observed in the A285 and A537 mild steel samples. The A537 mild steel, however, displayed lower corrosion rates in the presence of perrhenate compared in the absence of perrhenate. A hypothesis has been proposed to explain the differences between the two alloys.