<p>Effects of radiation-induced amorphization of smectite were investigated using artificial irradiation. Beams of 925 MeV Xenon ions with radiation dose reaching 73 MGy were used to simulate the effects generated by alpha recoil nuclei or fission products in the context of high level nuclear waste repository. Amorphization was controlled by X-ray diffraction, transmission electron microscopy, and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. An important coalescence of the smectite sheets was observed which lead to a loss of interparticle porosity. The amorphization is revealed by a loss of long-range structure and accompanied by dehydroxylation. The dissolution rate far-from-equilibrium shows that the amount of silica in solution is two times larger in the amorphous sample than in the reference clay, a value which may be enhanced by orders of magnitude when considering the relative surface area of the samples. Irradiation-induced amorphization thus facilitates dissolution of the clay-derived material. This has to be taken into account for the safety assessment of high level nuclear waste repository, particularly in a scenario of leakage of the waste package which would deliver alpha emitters able to amorphize smectite after a limited period of time.</p>
Fourdrin, C. Allard, T. Monnet, I. Menguy, N. Bénédetti, M. Calas, G.