School of Engineering
Land and Water Business Unit of CSIRO, Australia’s National Science Agency - SP-IE-Safe Waste disposal FY21/22
Disposal of radioactive waste originating from reprocessing of spent research reactor fuel typically includes stainless steel canisters with waste immobilised in a glass matrix. In a deep borehole disposal concept, waste packages could be stacked in a disposal zone at a depth of one to potentially several kilometres. This waste will generate heat for several hundreds of years. The influence of combining a natural geothermal gradient with heat from decaying nuclear waste on radionuclide transport from deep disposal boreholes is studied by implementing a coupled heat-solute mass transport modelling framework, subjected to depth-dependent temperature, pressure, and viscosity profiles. Several scenarios of waste-driven heat loads were investigated to test to what degree, if any, the additional heat affects radionuclide migration by generating convection-driven transport. Results show that the heat output and the calculated radioactivity at a hypothetical near-surface observation point are directly correlated; however, the overall impact of convection-driven transport is small due to the short duration (a few hundred years) of the heat load. Results further showed that the calculated radiation dose at the observation point was very sensitive to the magnitude of the effective diffusion parameter of the host rock. Coupled heat-solute mass transport models are necessary tools to identify influential processes regarding deep borehole disposal of heat-generating long-lived radioactive waste.
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