Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Rates and mechanisms of radioactive release and retention inside a waste disposal canister (In Can Processes), Final report

Project ID: FIKW-CT-2000-00019
Funded under: FP5-EAECTP C


Sweden and Finland are planning to dispose of spent nuclear fuel in a deep underground repository constructed in granitic rock. Each country is investigating candidate sites and developing the scientific and technical basis for assessing the safety of an eventual repository. An essential part of the safety assessment involves understanding the behaviour of the spent fuel after it is placed in the geologic environment.
The fuel will be sealed inside a copper canister that contains a cast iron insert. The copper functions as a corrosion-resistant barrier, while the cast iron insert fills much of the internal void space, adding strength to the canister and reducing the space available for water to accumulate inside the canister after the corrosion barrier is breached. The canisters will be surrounded by compressed bentonite, which will limit the access of water and dissolved species to the canister. Oxygen that is ini-tially present when the disposal environment is sealed will be rapidly consumed by pyrite in the bentonite, bacterial species in the rock, and reduced inorganic materials in the rock.
The copper canister will prevent access of water to the iron until it is corroded through, a process that is expected to take millions of years. After water contacts the iron, anaerobic corrosion of the insert will generate hydrogen gas and introduce Fe(II) ions into the water. The long-term environment for the fuel, therefore, is a highly reducing environment. The only possible source of oxidising agents is radiolysis of the water by radiation from the fuel. In the long term, the radioactivity in the fuel is due to isotopes that decay by alpha decay; most of the activity from beta and gamma radiation will have decayed away.

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