Ensuring the Safety of Nuclear Waste Containment

Meet Thalia Standish

Image of ThaliaSupervisors

Dr. David Shoesmith and Dr. Jamie Noël

Research Interests

Corrosion and degradation of nuclear fuel waste containers


NSERC Canadian Graduate Scholarship-Doctoral
Mitacs Accelerate Internship


T. E. Standish, M. Yari, D. W. Shoesmith, and J. J. Noël. “Crevice Corrosion of Grade-2 Titanium in Saline Solutions at Different Temperatures and Oxygen Concentrations,” J. Electrochem. Soc., vol. 164, pp. C788-C795, 2017.
T. E. Standish, D. Zagidulin, S. Ramamurthy, J. J. Noël, P. G. Keech, and D. W. Shoesmith, “Galvanic Corrosion of Copper-Coated Carbon Steel for Used Nuclear Fuel Containers,” Corros. Eng. Sci. Techn., vol. 52, pp. 65-69, 2017
T. E. Standish, J. Chen, R. Jacklin, P. Jakupi, S. Ramamurthy, P. Keech, and D. W. Shoesmith. “Corrosion of Copper-Coated Steel High Level Nuclear Waste Containers Under Permanent Disposal Conditions,” Electrochim. Acta, vol. 211, pp. 331–342, 2016.

Current Status

Standish is in the fourth year of her PhD and is co-supervised by Dr. David Shoesmith and Dr. Jamie Noel. She recently completed an eight-month internship at the Nuclear Waste Management Organization, where she used high-power computing and software to conduct her research. Standish is hoping to pursue a career in industry working in materials imaging and degradation.

Containing and storing spent nuclear fuel on the time scale of 100,000 years is a national challenge currently facing Canada. Though nuclear power currently meets more than 50% of Ontario’s power production, finding a safe and permanent storage system for this radioactive fuel is still an elusive goal. Currently, nuclear waste is stowed in temporary storage facilities, but the goal is to find a permanent and safe solution. Thalia Standish, a PhD candidate from the Department of Chemistry at Western University, is investigating the longevity of a new containment system.

The proposed permanent solution is to bury steel containers coated with copper deep into the ground; however, any container must be able to resist the corrosion of the groundwater percolating down towards the buried containers. Standish’s research evaluates the corrosion rates of these materials over time. Standish looks primarily at what happens when a defect is present in the copper coating and the steel interacts with water and dissolved oxygen. When this occurs the steel has the potential to undergo accelerated corrosion because it is now reacting with both the copper and groundwater.

To address this, Standish uses electrochemistry and image analysis to see how the corrosion happens and progresses while determining the influence of different environmental parameters. Standish uses state-of-art imaging instruments such as micro computed tomography (micro-CT), which is a non-destructive 3D imaging technique to examine the material in-situ without removing the samples from solution and changing the environment. She is therefore able to image over different time points and see how the corrosion is progressing, allowing for a realistic measurement of the material under the conditions expected deep underground.

The research has produced a database delivering information on the amount of steel lost and rate of that corrosion under different environmental conditions. This has become an essential safety tool for determining how these materials should perform over their expected lifetimes and addressing the what-if questions regarding worst outcome scenarios.