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Combined Experimental and Computational Approach to Predict the Glass-Water Reaction

E. M. Pierce, D. H. Bacon

Nuclear Technology

Volume 176 / Number 1 / October 2011 / Pages 22-39


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The use of mineral and glass dissolution rates measured in laboratory experiments to predict the weathering of primary minerals and volcanic and nuclear waste glasses in field studies requires the construction of rate models that accurately describe the weathering process over geologic timescales. Additionally, the need to model the long-term behavior of nuclear waste glass for the purpose of estimating radionuclide release rates requires that rate models be validated with long-term experiments. Several long-term test methods have been developed to accelerate the glass-water reaction [drip test, vapor hydration test, product consistency test B, and pressurized unsaturated flow (PUF)], thereby reducing the duration required to evaluate long-term performance. Currently, the PUF test is the only method that mimics the unsaturated hydraulic properties expected in a subsurface disposal facility and simultaneously monitors the glass-water reaction. PUF tests are being conducted to accelerate the weathering of glass and validate the model parameters being used to predict long-term glass behavior. A one-dimensional reactive chemical transport simulation of glass dissolution and secondary-phase formation during a 1.5-year-long PUF experiment was conducted with the Subsurface Transport Over Reactive Multiphases (STORM) code. Results show that parameterization of the computer model by combining direct benchscale laboratory measurements and thermodynamic data provides an integrated approach to predicting glass behavior over the length of the experiment. Over the 1.5-year-long test duration, the rate decreased from 0.2 to 0.01 g/(m2day) based on B release for low-activity waste glass LAWA44. The observed decrease is approximately two orders of magnitude higher than the decrease observed under static conditions with the SON68 glass (estimated to be a decrease by four orders of magnitude) and suggests that the gel-layer properties are less protective under these dynamic conditions.

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