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Two genuinely geological alternatives for disposal of highly radioactive waste (HLW)
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Mining and Geotechnical Engineering.
GeoENconLtd, Institute of Geography and Geology, Univ. of Greifswald, Germany.
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Mining and Geotechnical Engineering. (Geoteknik)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6790-2653
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, Mining and Geotechnical Engineering. (Geoteknik)
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Number of Authors: 5
2017 (English)In: Communicacaoes Geologicas, ISSN 0873-948X; e-ISSN: 1647-581XArticle in journal (Refereed) Accepted
Abstract [en]

Disposal of highly radioactive waste (HLW) can be environmentally acceptable if radionuclides are kept isolated from the groundwater, which has inspired planners of repositories to work out multibarrier concepts that postulate defined functions of the host rock and engineered waste confinements. Assessment of the role of the host rock involves groundwater flow modelling and rock mechanical analysis, which are both highly speculative and ignore future changes in rock structure, stress conditions, and groundwater flow. Widening the perspective by considering the integrated physical performance of contacting geological strata respecting groundwater flow conditions can provide excellent isolation of HLW with a minimum of engineered barriers as illustrated by the principle of very deep boreholes (VDH) for which the very high salt content of deep water is the primary barrier by maintaining possibly contaminated groundwater at depth. Such isolation of groundwater regimes can also be obtained by constructing relatively shallow repositories in crystalline rock covered by clay-containing sedimentary rock in regions with no or very low hydraulic gradients. The paper describes a possible case of this type, showing that effective isolation of HLW in repositories of commonly discussed types, KBS-3H and VDH, can be achieved under present climatic conditions.

The paper compares the short- and long-term functions of repositories located at the southern end of the Swedish island Gotland, being an example of desired geological conditions that are found also in other parts of Sweden and in Lithuania, Germany, Holland and the UK. Here, 500 m of sediment rock series cover gneiss bedrock in which a KBS-3H repository of SKB-type can be built under virtually “dry” conditions because of the tightness of the overlying sedimentary rock and lack of hydraulic gradients in the crystalline rock. Shafts leading down from the ground surface to the repository level are constructed by use of freezing technique and lined with low-pH concrete before installation of waste after which they have to be sealed with expanding clay. Use of initially largely water-saturated clay provides suitable physical properties of the embedment of waste containers. Alternatively, a VDH repository consisting of a number of steep 4 km deep boreholes with about 8oo mm diameter can be driven for installing waste below 2 km depth, leaving the upper 2 km for sealing with clay. The geological conditions, which are also believed to provide acceptable rock pressure conditions for construction of a KBS-3H repository at about 600 m depth, are believed to be suitable for the construction and short- and long-term performance of either repository type. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
bentonite, waste canisters, high-level radioactive waste, repository design, repository site selection, rock stress, rock structure, smectite clay
National Category
Geotechnical Engineering
Research subject
Soil Mechanics
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-60157OAI: diva2:1044773
Available from: 2016-11-06 Created: 2016-11-06 Last updated: 2016-12-12

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