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NEW CRP: Geopolymers as an Immobilization Matrix for Radioactive Waste (T21029)

New Coordinated Research Project

Method for interim storage of radioactive waste at Nuclear Engineering Seibersdorf, Austria. (Photo: Nuclear Engineering Seibersdorf).

For nearly a century, geopolymers have been used for construction, ceramics, fireproofing and other industrial applications. One of their most promising applications, in radioactive waste management, has drawn considerable attention in recent years, and the IAEA is now launching a Coordinated Research Project (CRP) to better understand the performance of geopolymers in this area and facilitate their deployment. 

Geopolymers, also known as alkali-activated aluminosilicate cements or binders, help immobilize and stabilize radioactive waste, effectively reducing the potential for radionuclide migration or dispersion. Immobilization is particularly important during the handling, transportation, storage and disposal stages. Their unique composition provides a high strength and adaptable gel network, with low environmental impact, thus aligning with radioactive waste disposal requirements.  

Research on radioactive waste immobilization using geopolymer matrices has been conducted within organizations across several Member States and within international research projects, however, only a few Member States have approved geopolymer matrix application for radioactive waste processing. Recent studies indicate that the use of geopolymers for immobilizing radioactive waste offers a promising alternative to traditional cement binders, presenting potential benefits for specific waste streams. 

Despite these promising developments, a gap exists in comparing the performance of geopolymers with traditional cement binders, which have well-established waste form performance protocols. To address this challenge, the IAEA’s new CRP aims to facilitate the deployment of geopolymers to immobilize radioactive waste. The CRP aims to further unlock the potential of geopolymers by establishing common protocols and experimental conditions to enable thorough, reliable and repeatable assessments of waste form performance when using geopolymers. This effort will not only promote consistency among researchers but also facilitate the adoption of geopolymer technology in the nuclear industry, as well as ensure that the waste forms meet the rigorous standards set by the Waste Acceptance Criteria (WAC). 

With the launch of this new CRP, the IAEA aims to establish a standardized approach to geopolymer waste form testing and contribute to sustainable, efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for managing radioactive waste, ultimately benefiting both current and future generations. Member States can broaden their knowledge on testing protocols for geopolymer matrices which can be used for future nuclear installation construction, shielding materials, disposal matrices for nuclear waste and repairing damaged cement of nuclear constructions. 

Overall CRP objectives 

  • Enhance the international knowledge basis available on waste form testing protocols for geopolymers as part of future strategic decisions by Member States on whether to pursue geopolymers for the immobilization of radioactive waste. 

  • Establish protocols against emerging procedures specifically designed for geopolymer matrix testing. 

  • Compare methodologies to pave the way for the establishment of standardized waste form testing protocols for the use of geopolymers in immobilizing radioactive waste.   

Specific research objectives 

  • Provide a comprehensive set of testing protocols to assist Member States in making informed strategic decisions on whether to pursue the use of geopolymers for the immobilization of radioactive waste. 

  • Enhance the scientific and technical basis underpinning waste form testing protocols for geopolymers to demonstrate their durability. 

How to join this CRP 

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement by email, no later than 15 February 2024 to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using CRP ID ‘T21029’ and the appropriate template on the Coordinated Research Activities web portal

Potential applicants are advised to read CRP T21029 Guidance Document before applying. For further information, please visit the CRP page. The IAEA encourages institutes to involve, to the extent possible, women researchers and young researchers in their proposals. 


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