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Bentonite Alteration Due to Thermal-Hydro-Chemical Processes During the Early Thermal Period in a Nuclear Waste Repository

Tianfu Xu, Rainer Senger, Stefan Finsterle

Nuclear Technology / Volume 174 / Number 3 / Pages 438-451

June 2011

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After closure of an underground nuclear waste repository, the decay of radionuclides will raise the temperature in the repository, and the bentonite buffer will resaturate by water inflow from the surrounding host rock. The perturbations from these thermal and hydrological processes are expected to dissipate within hundreds to a few thousand years. Here, we investigate coupled thermal-hydro-chemical processes and their effects on the short-term performance of a potential nuclear waste repository located in a clay formation. Using a simplified geometric configuration and abstracted hydraulic parameters of the clayey formation, we examine geochemical processes, coupled with thermohydrologic phenomena, and potential changes in porosity near the waste container during the early thermal period. The developed models were used for evaluating the mineral alterations and potential changes in porosity of the buffer, which can affect the repository performance. The results indicate that mineral alteration and associated changes in porosity induced by early thermal and hydrological processes are relatively small and are expected to not significantly affect flow and transport properties. Chlorite precipitation was obtained in all simulation cases. A maximum of one percent volume fraction of chlorite could be formed, whose process may reduce swelling and sorption capacity of bentonite clay, affecting the performance of the repository. The illitization process was not obtained from the present simulations.

 
 
 
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