Radiation Effects and Radioactive Waste Management
Research Group


RODNEY C. EWING

Back to Rod's Home Page

        Rod Ewing is a professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences at the University of Michigan, responsible for the program in radiation effects and nuclear waste management.   He also holds appointments in Geological Sciences and Materials Science & Engineering and is an Emeritus Regents' Professor at the University of New Mexico in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, where he was a member of the faculty from 1974 to 1997 and chair of the department from 1979 to 1984. He is also an Adjungeret  Professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

        Ewing received a B.S. degree in geology from Texas Christian University (1968, summa cum laude) and M.S. (l972) and Ph.D. (l974, with distinction) degrees  in mineralogy from Stanford University where he held an NSF Fellowship.    His graduate studies focused on an esoteric group of minerals, metamict Nb-Ta-Ti oxides that are unusual because they have become amorphous due to radiation damage caused by the presence of radioactive elements (U and Th) and radionuclides in their decay series.  This radiation-induced phase transformation from a crystalline to amorphous (periodic-to-aperiodic) structure can have significant effects on the properties of materials, such as the decreased durability of radioactive waste forms.  Over the past twenty years, the early study of these unusual minerals has blossomed into a broadly based research program on radiation effects in complex ceramic materials.  Such studies have lead to the development of techniques to predict and confirm the very long-term behavior of materials, such as those used in radioactive waste disposal.  The key to such studies has been the use of natural phases of great age in designing highly durable nuclear waste forms. Present research includes: radiation effects caused by heavy-particle interactions with crystalline materials (e.g., ion-beam modification of ceramics and minerals); the structure and crystal chemistry of complex Nb-Ta-Ti oxides; the crystal chemistry of actinide and fission product elements, the application of "natural analogues" to the evaluation of the long-term durability of radioactive waste forms and the release and transport of radionuclides;  the low-temperature corrosion of silicate glasses;  the neutronics and geochemistry of the natural nuclear reactors in Gabon, Africa.  The research has utilized a wide variety of solid-state characterization techniques, such as x-ray diffraction, x-ray absorption spectroscopy and high-resolution electron microscopy.  The work of the research group has been supported not only by U.S. funding agencies but also from sources abroad (Sweden, Germany, Australia and Japan, as well as by the European Union and NATO).  Ewing is the author or co-author of approximately 400 research publications and the editor or co-editor of seven monographs, proceedings volumes or special issues of journals.  He was recently granted a patent for the development of a highly durable material for the immobilization of excess weapons plutonium.  He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002.

        Ewing is a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the Mineralogical Society of America and has served the Materials Research Society as a Councilor (1983-1985; 1987-1989) and Secretary  (l985-l986). He was president  of the Mineralogical Society of America (2002) International Union of Materials Research Societies (1997-1998) and the New Mexico Geological Society (1981).  He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Caswell Silver Foundation (l980-l984) and Energy, Exploration, Education, Inc. (l979-l984).  He has served as a guest scientist or faculty member at Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Hahn-Meitner-Institut  in Berlin, the Department of Nuclear Engineering in the Technion University at Haifa, the Centre D'Etudes Nucléaires de Fontenay-Aux-Roses, Commissariat A L'Énergie Atomique in France, Charles University in Prague, the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, the Institut für Nukleare Entsorgungstechnik of the Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Aarhus University in Denmark, Mineralogical Institute of Tokyo University and the Khlopin Radium Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

The involvement in issues related to nuclear waste disposal has proceeded in parallel with the basic research program most notably in association with the activities of the Materials Research Society where he has been a member of the program committee and the editor or associate editor for the proceedings volumes for the symposia on the "Scientific Basis for Nuclear Waste Management" held in Berlin-82, Boston-84, Stockholm-85, Berlin-88,  Strasbourg-91, Kyoto-1994, Boston-1998 and Sydney-2000.  He is co-editor of and a contributing author of Radioactive Waste Forms for the Future (published by North-Holland Physics, Amsterdam, 1988).  Professor Ewing has served on National Research Council committees for the National Academy of Sciences that have reviewed the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico (1984 to 1996), the Remediation of Buried and Tank Wastes at Hanford, Washington and INEEL, Idaho (1992 to 1995), and the INEEL High-Level Waste Alternative Treatments (1998-1999), as well as a subcommittee on WIPP for the Environmental Protection Agency's National Advisory Council on Environmental Policy and Technology (1992 to 1998). He has served as an invited expert to the Advisory Committee on Nuclear Waste of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a consultant to the Nuclear Waste Technology Review Board.  He is presently a member of the Board of Radioactive Waste Management of the National Research Council.