Finnish spent nuclear fuel final disposal is planned to be based on the Kärnbränslesäkerhet 3-Vertical concept, which was originally planned for fractured crystalline bedrock. Within this concept, the role of the bentonite buffer is considered central. The aim of the study was to model the evolution of the final repository during the thermal phase (heat-generating period of spent fuel) when the bentonite is initially only partially saturated. There is an essential need to determine how temperature influences saturation and how both of these factors affect the chemistry of bentonite.

In this study the Long-Term Test of Buffer Materials A2 parcel test at the Äspö hard rock laboratory in Sweden was modeled using TOUGHREACT code. The results focused on the following phenomena occurring in the bentonite: cation exchange, changes of bentonite pore water, mineral alterations, saturation, and pressure changes in bentonite buffer.

The results show similarity with experimental data. However, the results are open to questions, and further study is needed to confirm the validity of the results. Differences between modeled and experimental results can be explained, for example, so that the experimental results are not from the fracture position as our one-dimensional model assumes.