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Actinide Migration in Fractures of Granite Host Rock: Laboratory and In Situ Investigations

Bernhard Kienzler, Peter Vejmelka, Jürgen Römer, Dieter Schild, Mats Jansson

Nuclear Technology

Volume 165 / Number 2 / February 2009 / Pages 223-240


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Within the scope of a cooperation between Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB and Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Institut für Nukleare Entsorgung, a series of actinide migration experiments were performed both in the laboratory and at the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory in Sweden. The objectives of these experiments were to quantify the sorption of different actinide elements in single fractures of a granite host rock and to investigate the sorption mechanisms. To guarantee the most realistic conditions - as close to nature as possible - in situ experiments were performed in the Chemlab 2 borehole probe. These migration experiments were complemented by laboratory sorption and migration studies. The latter included batch experiments with flat chips of natural material extracted from fracture surfaces to identify the mineral phases relevant to radionuclide sorption by means of autoradiography. Scanning electron microscopy analyses provided information on the composition of sorption-relevant phases and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy of Np, Tc, and Fe distribution revealed the redox states of these elements. Important mineral phases retaining all actinides and Tc were Fe-bearing phases.

From the migration experiments, elution curves of the inert tracer (HTO), Np(V), U(VI), and to a small extent of Tc(VII) were obtained. Americium(III) and plutonium(IV) were not eluted. The mechanisms influencing the migration of the elements Np, U, and Tc depended on redox reactions. It was shown by various independent methods that Np(V) was reduced to the tetravalent state on the fracture surfaces, thus resulting in a pronounced dependence of the recovery on the residence time. Technetium was also retained in the tetravalent state. Elution of natural uranium from the granite drill cores was significant and is discussed in detail.

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