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Thermal Evolution near Heat-Generating Nuclear Waste Canisters Disposed in Horizontal Drillholes

  • Author(s): Finsterle, Stefan
  • Muller, Richard
  • Baltzer, Rod
  • Payer, Joe
  • Rector, James
  • et al.

Published Web Location

http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/en12040596
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Abstract

We consider the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste in horizontal holes drilled into deep, low-permeable geologic formations using directional drilling technology. Residual decay heat emanating from these waste forms leads to temperature increases within the drillhole and the surrounding host rock. The spacing of waste canisters and the configuration of the various barrier components within the horizontal drillhole can be designed such that the maximum temperatures remain below limits that are set for each element of the engineered and natural repository system. We present design calculations that examine the thermal evolution around heat-generating waste for a wide range of material properties and disposal configurations. Moreover, we evaluate alternative layouts of a monitoring system to be part of an in situ heater test that helps determine the thermal properties of the as-built repository system. A data-worth analysis is performed to ensure that sufficient information will be collected during the heater test so that subsequent model predictions of the thermal evolution around horizontal deposition holes will reliably estimate the maximum temperatures in the drillhole. The simulations demonstrate that the proposed drillhole disposal strategy can be flexibly designed to ensure dissipation of the heat generated by decaying nuclear waste. Moreover, an in situ heater test can provide the relevant data needed to develop a reliable prediction model of repository performance under as-built conditions.

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