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Electron beam welding of spent nuclear storage containers

Safe and effective long-term storage of nuclear waste is critical to eliminate risks of potential radioactive leakage and pollution, which could have major implications for the surrounding environment and population. In the past 20 years, TWI has been invited to provide expertise and process guidance for nuclear waste management programmes across the world – and as a reliable process for the manufacture of spent fuel containers, EB welding meets the challenge both structurally and hermetically.

Long-term storage of high-level nuclear waste requires containers that will be 100% effective for up to 100,000 years. Work carried out at TWI in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the Swedish Nuclear Fuel & Waste Management Co (SKB) was the first to identify reduced pressure electron beam (EB) welding as a solution for sealing and encapsulating spent nuclear fuel canisters. Since this time, research and development of EB processing for nuclear waste control at TWI has established best practice for materials selection, and set out a series of manufacturing and high integrity welding methods and parameters for fabricating and sealing containers. 

TWI has to date provided services to the Office of Civilian Radioactive waste management in the USA, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel & Waste Management Co (SKB), Nagra in Switzerland and the French National Radioactive Waste Management Agency (ANDRA). Projects have involved: 

  • Making of sample pieces
  • Metallographic examination and weld property assessment through tests
  • Prototype container manufacture
  • Assessment of encapsulation plant plans. 

EB welding is effective for both fabrication and sealing such canisters, which have to be reliably, hermetically sealed for geological time spans. The process offers deep section welding, high speed, high integrity and low distortion. It also has the benefit of being non-contact and capable of being performed remotely in a hot-cell – necessary because of the high levels of radioactivity. 

For further information please see Joining Technologies or email

Prototype copper canister developed at TWI for SKB
Prototype copper canister developed at TWI for SKB