RIT gets funding to research nuclear waste disposal

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Rochester Institute of Technology is getting funding to study ways to improve the underground storage of nuclear waste.

The RIT will get $500,000 from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Researchers will conduct experiments on the effects of heat, chemical reactions, and seismic activity on concrete structures used to dispose of nuclear waste. The three-year project could help to protect nuclear waste during earthquakes and other emergencies.

While concrete can effectively contain radioactive material, it can also weaken over time. Lu Sun, a professor in RIT’s College of Engineering Technology, is working to find a way to make concrete more stable.

“That’s where we have the thermal properties that come into play,” he said. “And also because of the radiation. Both can cause a chemical reaction because there are changes in the material at the molecular level. That is why we look at thermal, hydro, mechanical, and chemical processes together in this research so that we can precisely characterize the properties of concrete material for nuclear waste disposal. That’s what makes this scenario unique.”

Nuclear waste not only comes from nuclear power plants but also from radiation therapy for treating cancers. Sun said studying nuclear waste disposal is becoming more important as cities are looking to replace fossil fuels with carbon-neutral energy to tackle climate change.