Office of Environmental Management

Office of River Protection Scientist Helps Author Cover Story on Glass Study

May 16, 2016

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A cover story on EM’s ancient glass study appeared in the American Ceramic Society Bulletin.

A cover story on EM’s ancient glass study appeared in the American Ceramic Society Bulletin.

RICHLAND, Wash. – An EM Office of River Protection (ORP) scientist contributed to an in-depth cover story for an American Ceramic Society publication about how researchers are looking to ancient glass from a mysterious Swedish hillfort for insight into using the substance to safely store nuclear waste at the Hanford Site.

   OPR glass scientist Albert Kruger is one of four authors of the six-page story, “Ensuring Longevity: Ancient Glasses Help Predict Durability of Vitrified Nuclear Waste.”

   The story focuses on the challenging research problem of studying how glass alters over time. Although ancient artifacts have compositions different from new glasses, the story says, they offer many potential analogues for study. Better understanding of long-term glass alteration allows more accurate prediction of the performance of vitrified nuclear waste to help develop durable waste glasses for millennia, according to the story.

   "The ability to benchmark waste-form performance against long-term, real-world behaviors offers an incredible advantage in our treatment and disposal programs," Kruger said. "As we develop an accelerated aging test for our waste-form, a measure of the validity of the test will be that it predicts the aging identical to that which we found in the hillfort glasses that have aged naturally over more than 1,500 years."

   ORP is collaborating with DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington State University (WSU), Luleå University in Sweden, Smithsonian Institution’s Museum Conservation Institute, and National Historical Museums in the study of ancient glass — how it has fared through the centuries and how it compares to results of accelerated aging tests on various types of low-activity waste.

   Funded by EM’s International Program, the study is part of a broader initiative to engage in mission-relevant research with countries having common interests.

   The story in the May issue of the American Ceramic Society Bulletin features a photo of Jamie Weaver, a WSU doctoral student in chemistry and researcher in the ancient glass study. In the photo, Weaver is shown at the Broborg hillfort near Uppsala, Sweden, close to remains of a vitrified wall that protrudes from the snow. The wall, intended to protect people of a tribe from invaders, was built from melted rocks.

   At ORP, workers are building the world’s largest radioactive waste treatment plant. When complete, the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant will process and stabilize 56 million gallons of radioactive and chemical waste currently stored at the site. The waste will be immobilized in glass through vitrification.

   Read the society’s cover story here