A new publication titled “Ultra-high Gamma Irradiation of Calcium Silicate Hydrates: Impact on Mechanical Properties, Nanostructure, and Atomic Environments” was published in Cement and Concrete Research in August 2022.
Nuclear power plants, a major source of emission-free energy, are closing on the end of their design life, and extending the operating life of these power plants will require extensively studying irradiation effects on each critical part of nuclear power plants. The concrete biological shield is one such critical part, which not only absorbs irradiation but also provides structural support. In this paper, we looked at gamma irradiation effects on calcium silicate hydrate, on micro, nano, and atomic scale on a range of irradiation dosages (from 0 MGy to 189 MGy), based on an extended 80-year design life. XRD reveals that irradiation decreases C-S-H basal spacing (~ 0.6 ± 0.1 Å for 189 MGy), likely through the removal of interlayer water as supported by TGA. The Young’s modulus increased with irradiation, but porosity remained unchanged implying the decrease in basal spacing is the main reason behind the increase in young’s modulus. 1H NMR data show that irradiation increases the FWHM of the CaO-H cluster peaks indicating some disorder in the local proton CaO-H species. Finally, 29Si NMR data show that the silicate structure mostly stays unaffected, but the chemical shift of minor Q3 silica becomes less negative indicating slight depolymerization of the silicate structure. Overall, the C-S-H gel stiffens upon ultrahigh gamma irradiation affecting the long-term service life of a nuclear powerplant.
This work was led by Aniruddha Baral and performed in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Lab, Columbia University, and Argonne National Lab. Aniruddha graduated with a PhD in summer 2022 and started a postdoc at the University of Sheffield.
The article can be accessed here.