Characterization and Thermal-Hydraulic Modeling of Engineered Barriers for a Canadian Deep Geological Repository for Used Nuclear Fuel
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Within Canada there are more than 2.5 million bundles of spent nuclear fuel with another approximately 2 million bundles to be generated in the future. Canada, and every country around the world that has taken a decision on management of spent nuclear fuel, has decided on long-term containment and isolation of the fuel within a deep geological repository. At depth, a deep geological repository consists of a network of placement rooms where the bundles will be located within a multi-layered system that incorporates engineered and natural barriers. The barriers will be placed in a complex thermal-hydraulic-mechanical-chemical-biological (THMCB) environment. A large database of material properties for all components in the repository are required to construct representative models. Within the repository, the sealing materials will experience elevated temperatures due to the thermal gradient produced by radioactive decay heat from the waste inside the container. Furthermore, high porewater pressure due to the depth of repository along with possibility of elevated salinity of groundwater would cause the bentonite-based materials to be under transient hydraulic conditions. Therefore it is crucial to characterize the sealing materials over a wide range of thermal-hydraulic conditions. A comprehensive experimental program has been conducted to measure properties (mainly focused on thermal properties) of all sealing materials involved in Mark II concept at plausible thermal-hydraulic conditions. The thermal response of Canada’s concept for a deep geological repository has been modelled using experimentally measured thermal properties. Plausible scenarios are defined and the effects of these scenarios are examined on the container surface temperature as well as the surrounding geosphere to assess whether they meet design criteria for the cases studied. The thermal response shows that if all the materials even being at dried condition, repository still performs acceptably as long as sealing materials remain in contact.