Concrete, used in the construction of nuclear power plants (NPPs), may be exposed to radiation emanating from the reactor core. Until recently, concrete has been assumed immune to radiation exposure. Direct evidence acquired on Ar+-ion irradiated calcite and quartz indicates, on the contrary, that, such minerals, which constitute aggregates in concrete, may be significantly altered by irradiation. More specifically, while quartz undergoes disordering of its atomic structure resulting in a near complete lack of periodicity, calcite only experiences random rotations, and distortions of its carbonate groups. As a result, irradiated quartz shows a reduction in density of around 15%, and an increase in chemical reactivity, described by its dissolution rate, similar to a glassy silica. Calcite however, shows little change in dissolution rate - although its density noted to reduce by ≈9%. These differences are correlated with the nature of bonds in these minerals, i.e., being dominantly ionic or covalent, and the rigidity of the mineral's atomic network that is characterized by the number of topological constraints (nc) that are imposed on the atoms in the network. The outcomes have major implications on the durability of concrete structural elements formed with calcite or quartz bearing aggregates in nuclear power plants.


Materials Science and Engineering

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2016 Nature Publishing Group, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jan 2016