ABSTRACT:

Within the last 20 years, there has been an intense research activity within the problems of radioactive waste isolation in underground repositories all over the world. The principle of waste isolation is based on a multi-barrier system that is composed of two basic components –

  1. engineered and

  2. natural barriers.

It is assumed that the main material to be used for the engineered barrier structure will be bentonite. The research on bentonite therefore needs to be done with due complexity, with regards to the multi-disciplinary character of the problem, but namely with a view to the target demand: the design of the engineered barrier structure with a guaranteed, extremely long-term safe function (hundreds of thousands of years). This paper describes the necessary scope of geotechnical part of research, presenting experimental research carried out at the Centre of Experimental Geotechnics of the Czech Technical University in Prague.

INTRODUCTION

The research on the problems of high-level nuclear waste disposal in underground repositories was launched in 1955, when the conference on peaceful exploitation of nuclear energy in Geneva became the forum for formulating the principal ways of radioactive waste disposal. Specialised workplaces were gradually set up all over the world concentrating research experts in many scientific branches. The problems of radioactive waste isolation in underground repositories are of a highly multi-disciplinary character. Despite the intensive on-going world-wide research performed within this problem area within the last 20 years, not all has been satisfactorily solved today. Whereas the required functionality, service life or safety for standard engineering structures range within the maximum limits of dozens of years, high-level nuclear waste has to be isolated for all the time when it remains hazardous to any component of the environment, that is for the period of hundreds of thousands of years.

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