The Interfacial Dynamics in Radioactive Environments and Materials (IDREAM) Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) is a PNNL-led partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Utah, and the University of Washington.

This interdisciplinary team is exploring complex chemical phenomena to enable innovations in retrieving and processing highly radioactive waste and resolving knowledge gaps that have perplexed industrial aluminum process chemists for more than a century.

Three circles, each showing a different molecular structure, represents IDREAM research. The parter institutions are listed across the bottom.

A Foundation for New Discoveries

The mission of IDREAM is to master fundamental interfacial chemistry in complex environments characterized by extremes in alkalinity and low-water activity. We are especially interested in chemical phenomena driven far from equilibrium by ionizing radiation. This information fills a critical knowledge gap around complex chemistry and radiolysis of highly alkaline systems, which can aid in accelerating processing of legacy radioactive waste.

Since August 2016, IDREAM has created a transformative new understanding of key aspects of aluminum chemistry in highly alkaline electrolytes and the influence of ionizing radiation. Our work has resulted in key breakthroughs and is directly challenging long-held beliefs and surmounting barriers through our integrated computational and multi-modal experimental approaches.


A graphic with four squares and three circles, each showing different molecular structures that represent IDREAM research into aspects of nuclear waste chemistry.
IDREAM aims to provide the fundamental science basis to speed up the processing of millions of gallons of highly radioactive wastes stored at DOE’s Hanford and Savannah River Sites. With currently available technologies, removing these wastes from tanks and stabilizing them for disposal will take decades and will cost hundreds of billions of dollars. Building on IDREAM’s research progress, our research goals advance a foundation of use-inspired knowledge, enabling accelerated waste-processing alternatives. (Illustration by Nathan Johnson | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)


IDREAM consists of an interdisciplinary team of experts united around common research goals, each with unique approaches and tools with transcendent impacts.  Our core science thrusts center on discovering the general principles describing interfacial chemistry under extreme conditions that include highly alkaline electrolytes exposed to ionizing radiation.

Fusion of knowledge from the core thrusts via cross-cutting activities will enable a comprehensive understanding of interfacial radiolysis that supports accelerated alternatives for processing highly radioactive waste. Our cross-cutting themes are embedded within each of the science thrusts.

  • Cross-Cutting Theme 1: Radiolysis and Radiation Dynamics
  • Cross-Cutting Theme 2: New Computational Tools and Theory
  • Cross-Cutting Theme 3: Synthesis and Materials Characterization

IDREAM is one of 41 EFRCs stewarded by the Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Effective with the four-year renewal that launched August 1, 2020, and is led by PNNL, the IDREAM institutional partners include Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Washington. In August 2022, the six-year partnership with the Washington State University ended and the University of Utah joined IDREAM.

While BES is the sponsor and EFRC steward, IDREAM's science provides a technical foundation for innovation within the DOE Office of Environmental Management's cleanup missions at the Hanford Site in Washington state and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.