Effects of Irradiation on Albite’s Chemical Durability

Albite (NaAlSi<sub>3</sub>O<sub>8</sub>), a framework silicate of the plagioclase feldspar family and a common constituent of felsic rocks, is often present in the siliceous mineral aggregates that compose concrete. When exposed to radiation (e.g., in the form of neutrons) in nuclear power plants, the crystal structure of albite can undergo significant alterations. These alterations may degrade its chemical durability. Indeed, careful examinations of Ar<sup>+</sup>-implanted albite carried out using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and molecular dynamics simulations show that albite’s crystal structure, upon irradiation, undergoes progressive disordering, resulting in an expansion in its molar volume (i.e., a reduction of density) and a reduction in the connectivity of its atomic network. This loss of network connectivity (i.e., rigidity) results in an enhancement of the aqueous dissolution rate of albitemeasured using vertical scanning interferometry (VSI) in alkaline environmentsby a factor of 20. This enhancement in the dissolution rate (i.e., reduction in chemical durability) of albite following irradiation has significant impacts on the durability of felsic rocks and of concrete containing them upon their exposure to radiation in nuclear power plant (NPP) environments.