Presenting the Case for Nuclear Waste Containers

Meet Balsam Ibrahim

Alumni ’17 MSc, Department of Chemistry

Supervisor: Dr. David Shoesmith

Balsam PortraitResearch Interests: Corrosion of the Cu layer of nuclear fuel waste containers

Awards:
BASF 2020 Innovation Award
University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering Workshop 2014 – First Prize

Publication:
Investigating absorption of organic compounds and metal organic framework MIL-53, Canadian Journal of Chemistry March 2015

Current Status:
Research and Development Chemical Technologist Support Engineer, 3M


“There is a burgeoning problem of storing nuclear waste for the long term. In Canada there are 85,000 used fuel bundles produced each year,” according to Balsam. Providing an awe-inspiring analogy to underscore the scope of the challenge, Ibrahim said, “There are enough fuel bundles to fill six regulation sized hockey rinks from the surface of the ice to the top of the boards.”   When spent bundles are removed from the reactor they are first cooled in pools and temporarily placed in dry storage.  “The problem that we’re looking at is what we do after the dry storage period.”

Plans are underway by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Canada to develop a multi barrier approach to contain the waste by first cladding the used fuel bundles in a steel casing and then a second outside layer of copper before they are buried 500 metres underground in deep geological repositories. The concern is whether the radiation from within the casing will irradiate the environment outside of the container and if so, will this result in its corrosion. Balsam’s research is attempting to address the issue through a combination of corrosion and electrochemistry studies to determine the survivability of the copper shielding.

These are still early days in terms of the research. Data collection is on-going.  So far, the graduate research student has completed a humidity exposure experiment to simulate one of the environments. "although it is early I feel I will be successful in helping define a safe container design" reports Balsam “so it looks good.”