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Water Migration and Swelling in Engineered Barrier Materials for Radioactive Waste Disposal...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Nuclear Technology
Publication Date
Page Numbers
1 to 20
online - l

Deep, underground repositories are needed to isolate radioactive waste from the biosphere. Because bentonite is an integral component of many multibarrier repository systems, information on the hydraulic behavior of bentonite is crucial for modeling the long-term viability of such systems. In this paper the hydraulic behavior of bentonite samples was analyzed as a function of aggregate size, and samples were subjected to hydrothermal treatments involving contact with NaCl, KCl, and deionized water. Neutron and X-ray imaging were used to quantify water sorption into packed bentonite samples and bentonite swelling into the water column. The distance between the original clay-water interface and the wetting front was determined as a function of time. Average water uptake exhibited a square-root-of-time dependence in freshly prepared samples, but more variable rates were observed for samples previously in contact with water. The radiography was supported by small-angle neutron scattering analysis and ultra-small-angle neutron scattering analysis of aggregate size distributions and by inelastic neutron scattering to understand the physicochemical environment of the sorbed water. Results showed that hydrothermal treatment with KCl had the greatest effect of increased water transport in the bentonite, possibly as a result of the interaction of K+ with smectite layers in the clay.