Any environmental performance assessment of spent nuclear fuel disposal requires a prediction of the spent fuel matrix alteration rate when contact with groundwater is established. Taking into account the disposal design, the groundwater at the expected depth of the repository are generally reducing. These reducing redox conditions near the spent fuel surface may be changed to oxidising conditions by the radiolysis of water, due to radiation associated with the waste. This study is focussed on determining the influence of the γ radiation on the spent fuel matrix alteration rate under simulated repository conditions. A series of sequential leaching experiments under controlled conditions have been done. The experiments simulate the repository environmental conditions when engineering barriers are degraded and groundwater arrives at the surface of the spent fuel. In these experiments SIMFUEL (SIMulated FUEL) was used as analogue of spent fuel. Two types of leachant (i.e., granitic water and bentonitic-granitic water) were used in the leaching experiments. These experiments were irradiated using γ-radiation at an industrial irradiation facility with a 60Co source. The results obtained in this study show different behaviour as a function of both the leachant used in the leaching experiments and the initial atmosphere used in the experiments. As a preliminary conclusion of this experimental work, under γ radiation and a small partial pressure of H2 (1 bar) in the first steps of the leaching process has a beneficial effect since U in solution is lower than any other conditions and overall alteration rate is minimized. For experimental times longer than one day, a clear increase of the U in solution is revealed in the experimental run products.
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Financial support for this research has been provided in the framework of the Ciemat–ENRESA agreement (2000–2003) related to “Spent Fuel technology. Characterisation techniques and modelling of the fission products leaching procedure”. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of P.P. Valdivieso and M. J. Tomás for the technical assistance.
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Quiñones, J., Cobo, J.M., de la Huebra, Á.G. et al. An Experimental Study on the Influence of Gamma Radiation on Spent Fuel Dissolution in the Presence of a H2 Atmosphere. MRS Online Proceedings Library 824, 557–562 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-824-CC9.6