The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co. (SKB) has recently completed a safety assessment project named SR-Can, related to the KBS-3 disposal concept. In this concept, the waste packages are surrounded by a buffer made of either MX-80 or Deponit CA-N bentonite. Interactions between the buffer and groundwater may modify the buffer composition and thus its containment properties. The Swedish Radiation Protection Authorities (SSI) requested the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) to perform the present study in support of SSI review of the SR-Can report. The purpose is to assess the geochemical evolution of both potential buffer materials due to the intrusion of different types of groundwater, with a similar modelling layout to that reported in SR-Can and detailed in Arcos et al. (2006). Three main categories of water inflows via a fracture intersecting a deposition hole are considered: the Forsmark reference groundwater, a high-salinity groundwater to account for up-rise of deep-seated brines and a diluted water representing ice-melting derived-groundwater. In addition to this, the redox buffering capacity of Deponit CA-N bentonite and the thermal effect on MX-80 bentonite geochemistry have been assessed. This modelling work has been performed using the reactive transport modelling code HYTEC.
The main outcome of the present study is that the intrusion of the considered groundwaters should not affect drastically the geochemistry of neither the Deponit CA-N nor the MX-80 bentonite on the long-term (100,000 y). Bentonite pH may reach high values (up to 10.5) in some cases but does not reach SKB criterion value related to bentonite chemical stability. Dissolution-precipitation of accessory minerals is not significant enough to induce important porosity changes (rise by maximum 2 %). Globally, the montmorillonite exchanger undergoes Na by Ca partial replacement, which may decrease the swelling pressure of the bentonite. The simulated intrusion of oxidizing waters lead to a limited perturbation, i.e. localized within bentonite near the fracture plane level. Actually, the calculated evolutions are relatively slow, so that in some cases the buffer remains in a transient stage over the whole simulation period and thus could turn heterogeneous in geochemical properties. Regarding the effect of temperature, a heterogeneous evolution is again observed, with moderate to slight dissolution-precipitation reactions either on the inner or outer border of the buffer (warmer and cooler zones) depending on the accessory minerals. These main trends in bentonite geochemical evolutions are in good agreement with the results presented in SR-Can and in Arcos et al. (2006), though some discrepancies have been pointed out, that can be explained by differences in modelling input data (mainly regarding log K values). Finally, issues in terms of processes and data would worth being further investigated as they might have a significant influence on bentonite evolutions, such as the thermo-hydraulic coupling of processes during the initial transient phase or the stability of montmorillonite.