Can sealing of rock hosting a repository for highly radioactive waste be relied on?


Multibarrier systems are commonly proposed for effective isolation of highly radioactive waste (HLW). Presently considered concepts take the host rock as a barrier claiming it to retard migration of possibly released radionuclides from HLW containers to the biosphere. This capacity is small unless water-bearing fracture zones intersecting the blasted waste-containing tunnels and excavation-disturbance zones around them can be sealed by grouting and construction of bulkheads, but this is effective only for a very limited period of time as explained in the paper. The disturbed zones thence make the entire repository serve as a continuous hydraulic conductor causing quick transport of released radionuclides up to the biosphere. The dilemma can be solved by accepting the shortcircuiting function of the disturbed zones along the tunnels on the condition that totally tight waste containers be used. Deep holes bored in the site selection phase through the forthcoming repository can be effective pathways for radionuclides unless they are properly sealed. They are small-scale equivalents of tunnels but do not have any excavation damage and can be effectively sealed by using clay and concrete of new types. Applying this principle to very deep boreholes with a diameter of a few decimeters would make it possible to safely store slim, tight HLW canisters for any period of time.

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Pusch, R. , Knutsson, S. , Ramqvist, G. , Mohammed, M. and Pourbakhtiar, A. (2012) Can sealing of rock hosting a repository for highly radioactive waste be relied on?. Natural Science, 4, 895-905. doi: 10.4236/ns.2012.431117.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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