The earliest description of a change in mineral property caused by radiation-damage was by Jöns Jacob Berzelius in 1814. Berzelius, a Swedish physician and mineral chemist, was certainly one of the most eminent scientists of his century, discovering the elements cerium, selenium and thorium. He discovered that some U- and Th-bearing minerals glowed on moderate heating, releasing, sometimes violently, large amounts of energy. This “pyrognomic” behavior was first observed in gadolinite, (REE)2FeBe2Si2O10, as it released stored energy. Today, this same type of catastrophic energy release is a significant concern in reactor safety...

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