Radionuclide disposal using the pyrochlore supergroup of minerals as a host matrix—A review

Scott A. McMaster, Rahul Ram, Nebeal Faris, Mark I. Pownceby

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


Since the first large scale commercial nuclear power plant became operational in 1958, the nuclear power industry has been faced with the growing problem of disposal of radionuclides produced from nuclear fission. The current global production of high level nuclear waste is approximately 10,000 metric tons p.a., consisting predominantly of uranium, plutonium, actinides and other minor radionuclides. Developing a safe and cost-effective method for long term storage and disposal of nuclear waste is a key issue of concern to the nuclear power industry. A promising approach to radionuclide disposal is incorporation of the nuclear waste into refractory oxide host minerals or mineral matrices. This technique offers lower leaching rates when compared to the commonly used glass-based vitrification approaches. The refractory pyrochlore supergroup of minerals are particularly attractive for this purpose as they can incorporate considerable amounts of the radionuclides: 93 Zr, 133 Ba, 135 Cs, Th, U, 238 Pu, and 244 Cm, while demonstrating very low leachability. This review examines the structural, compositional and chemical properties of radionuclide-containing pyrochlore supergroup minerals. Compiled leaching data for radionuclides hosted in pyrochlores demonstrates that these materials offer a high degree of aqueous durability making them strong candidates for radionuclide disposal, offering a viable storage alternative to traditional vitrification methods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-269
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2018


  • Actinide
  • Disposal
  • Immobilisation
  • Pyrochlore
  • Radionuclide

Cite this