Lab-scale performance of selected expandable clays under HLW repository conditions


Smectite clay has been proposed for embedding canisters with highly radioactive waste in deep repositories because of its isolating capacity. Montmorillonite-rich bentonite is a premier buffer candidate for many national organizations that are responsible for disposal of such waste. Experience from the use of drilling mud at large depths indicates that other smectite clay minerals are more stable chemically and saponite is one of them. The physical properties of smectitic mixed-layer minerals like Friedland clay are known to be less sensitive to high salt contents and such clay may also be a buffer candidate. Montmorillonite-rich MX-80 clay, Greek saponite with a minor amount of palygorskite, and Friedland clay were investigated in hydrothermal tests with dense samples confined in oedometers with 95 °C temperature at one end, which was made of copper, and 35 °C at the other, for 8 weeks. A 1 % CaCl2 solution was circulated through a filter at the cold end. At the end of the tests, the samples were sliced into three parts, which were tested with respect to expandability, hydraulic conductivity, and chemical composition. The tests showed that while the saponite was hardly changed at all and did not take up any copper, MX-80 underwent substantial changes in physical performance and adsorbed significant amounts of copper. The Friedland clay sample was intermediate in both respects.

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Support to complete the manuscript from the National Foundation for Science and Technology Development, Vietnam (project code is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Jörn Kasbohm.

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Kasbohm, J., Pusch, R., Nguyen-Thanh, L. et al. Lab-scale performance of selected expandable clays under HLW repository conditions. Environ Earth Sci 69, 2569–2579 (2013).

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  • Smectite alteration
  • THMC-framework
  • Mineralogy
  • Hydraulic conductivity
  • Swelling pressure