One of the most intricate issues of nuclear power is the long-term safety of repositories for radioactive waste. These repositories can have an impact on future generations for a period of time orders of magnitude longer than any known civilization. Several countries have considered copper as an outer corrosion barrier for canisters containing spent nuclear fuel. Among the many processes that must be considered in the safety assessments, radiation induced processes constitute a key-component. Here we show that copper metal immersed in water uptakes considerable amounts of hydrogen when exposed to γ-radiation. Additionally we show that the amount of hydrogen absorbed by copper depends on the total dose of radiation. At a dose of 69 kGy the uptake of hydrogen by metallic copper is 7 orders of magnitude higher than when the absorption is driven by H2(g) at a pressure of 1 atm in a non-irradiated dry system. Moreover, irradiation of copper in water causes corrosion of the metal and the formation of a variety of surface cavities, nanoparticle deposits, and islands of needle-shaped crystals. Hence, radiation enhanced uptake of hydrogen by spent nuclear fuel encapsulating materials should be taken into account in the safety assessments of nuclear waste repositories.