Aqueous geochemistry of radioactive waste disposal

  • Krauskopf K
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Abstract

Present plans for disposing of high-level radioactive waste include converting it to a stable solid form, enclosing it in metal canisters, placing the canisters in mined cavities several hundred meters below the surface, and filling and sealing all entries to the cavities. The chief hazard in such disposal is dissolution of radionuclides from the waste in the ground water that will eventually fill the cavity and may carry the dissolved material to surface environments. To prevent or delay release of radionuclides in this manner, the form of the waste must be made as insoluble as possible, the canister metal must be resistant to corrosion, both the cavity filling and surrounding rock must be impermeable and highly sorbent, and the repository must be located at a site where ground water is scanty and slow-moving and its path to the ground surface is long. The effectiveness of these barriers in isolating the waste can be predicted for long times in the future by models based on experimentally determined solubilities and sorption coefficients and on measured rates of ground-water movement. Much uncertainty is involved in such predictions, and additional research is needed to lower the uncertainty. But there seems little question that a well-located and well-engineered repository of this sort will provide adequate protection against harm from radioactive releases far into the future. © 1986.

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Authors

  • Konrad B. Krauskopf

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