In geologic repositories for nuclear waste located in crystalline rocks, the waste is surrounded by a bentonite buffer that in practice is not permeable to water flow. The nuclides must escape by molecular diffusion to enter the seeping water in the fractures of the rock. At high water-seepage rates, the nuclides can be carried away rapidly. The seepage rate of the water can be driven by the regional hydraulic gradient as well as by buoyancy-driven flow. The latter is induced by thermal circulation of the water by the heat produced by radionuclide decay. The circulation may also be induced by salt exchange between buffer and water in the fractures. The main aim of this paper is to explore how salt exchange between the backfill and mobile water in fractures, by buoyancy effects, can increase the escape rate of radionuclides from a repository.

A simple analytical model has been developed to describe the mass transfer rate induced by buoyancy. Numerical simulations support the simple solution. A comparison is made with the regional gradient-driven flow model. It is shown that buoyancy-driven flow can noticeably increase the release rate.