Osmosis: the key process that drives water uptake and swelling of Eurobitum Bituminized Radioactive Waste

Research outputpeer-review


In Belgium, the preferred long-term management option for Eurobitum bituminized ILW is its final disposal in a geologically stable clay formation such as the Boom Clay, which is studied as a reference host formation. After disposal, clay pore water will infiltrate the secondary concrete waste containers filled each with ten Eurobitum drums. Eurobitum contains hygroscopic salts, mostly NaNO3 (20-30 wt%) and CaSO4 (4-6 wt%), and thus will take up water and swell. If swelling is hindered, a pressure will be exerted on the concrete container and ultimately on the surrounding Boom Clay, possibly inducing stresses in the clay close to the disposal galleries. To improve our understanding of these processes, water uptake tests are ongoing in which inactive Eurobitum is contacted with 0.1 M KOH (representing young cement water). These tests suggest that the swelling is mainly driven by osmosis. This understanding was validated in the presented research by varying the water activity of the leachant in water uptake tests in both constant stress and constant volume conditions. After a stable swelling rate was reached in contact with 0.1 M KOH, the leachant was switched in the following order: nearly saturated (~7.8 M) NaNO3 – 0.1 M KOH – nearly saturated NaNO3 – 4 M NaNO3 – 0.1 M KOH. The changes in swelling rate and pressure evolution correlated nicely to the changes in water activity. This confirms that osmosis is the key process governing the swelling of Eurobitum.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScientific Basis for Nuclear Waste Management XXXIX
PublisherMRS - Materials Research Society
ISBN (Electronic)2059-8521
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2016
EventMRS 2015. The Scienfic Basis for Nuclear Waste mangement symposium - Materials Research Society, Montpellier
Duration: 2 Nov 20156 Nov 2015


ConferenceMRS 2015. The Scienfic Basis for Nuclear Waste mangement symposium

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