Portland cement has been identified as a likely candidate seal material by programs investigating the deep burial of nuclear waste as a disposal mechanism. The longevity of performance of cement grout is currently being investigated, along with bentonite, under the auspices of the Stripa Project. Coordinated laboratory, field, and modeling studies are underway to produce fundamental data, practical experience, and estimates of long-range performance, respectively. Long-term performance of cement grout is of particular concern. Since most of the solid phases of which grout is comprised are metastable, it is likely that grout performance will decrease with time. The question is whether performance will still be acceptable after this decrease. This issue is being addressed with the coupled use of geochemical and permeability modeling. For a simplified cement system, two mechanisms for chemical degradation have been considered: phase change and dissolution. For dissolution, both equilibrium (slow flow) and open (fast flow) systems have been analyzed as bounding scenarios. Granitic terrain groundwaters ranging from fresh to saline have been used in the analyses. To assess the consequences in terms of flow, an empirical relation between cement permeability and porosity has been developed. Performance changes with time have been predicted by making conservative estimates of local hydraulic head conditions for successive periods of repository history. For the granitic rock environments considered, preliminary results indicate that cement grout performance may be acceptable for tens of thousands to millions of years, providing its initial hydraulic conductivity is on the order of 10−12 m/s. Other conditions favoring long-term performance include minimizing the ettringite content of the grout, and emplacement at a site where the groundwater has an elevated TDS, and where the local hydraulic gradient is flat or repository resaturation times are short.
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