John DuPont, professor of materials science and engineering at Lehigh and principal investigator on the project, said that a nickel-based alloy with added gadolinium showed far greater ability than any other alloy to absorb the deadly radioactive neutrons emitted by nuclear waste.
The researchers found that the gadolinium-nickel alloy passed an important test - it can be fabricated in large quantities using conventional ingot metallurgy and fusion welding techniques.
The researchers' discovery, which was announced in an article in the December 2004 issue of the American Welding Society's Welding Journal, caps a four-year study funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Spent Nuclear Fuel Program.
The article, titled "Physical and Welding Metallurgy of Gadolinium-enriched Austenitic Alloys for Spent Nuclear Fuel Applications - Part II," won the society's Warren F. Savage Award for advancing the understanding of welding metallurgy.
The article comes amidst a controversy over plans by the Bush Administration and Congress to transport the nation's spent nuclear fuel to Nevada and deposit it inside Yucca Mountain about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
In 2002, over the objections of Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn, Congress passed, and President Bush signed into law a resolution approving Yucca Mountain as the storage site for the nation's spent nuclear fuel.
DOE's application for a license to build the project is pending before the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The state of Nevada, contending that the Yucca Mountain project is environmentally and geologically unsafe, has filed lawsuits against DOE, NRC, Bush and former DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham.
Contact: Kurt Pfitzer