Research on the longevity of cement-based grout materials for sealing a deep geological disposal vault is an important aspect of the Canadian and other nuclear waste management programs. These studies include assessments of the chemical durability of cement grouts, and the effects of leaching and phase transformation on the long-term hydraulic and diffusion characteristics of grouts.
This paper presents the results of laboratory studies carried out to assess the effects of leaching of cement phases on the pore structure of hardened grouts. Measurements of mercury intrusion and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive x-ray analysis, have been used to investigate the changes in pore structure of both a reference grout (90% Type 50 cement, 10% silica fume, water-to-cementitious materials ratio between 0.4 and 0.7) and ALOFIX-MC (a fine cement product of Japan), as a function of leaching time.
The work discussed here reveals that the porosity of hardened grout does change during leaching, but within limits that depend on grout composition and initial porosity. The results confirm that the materials have the potential to self-seal and maintain their performance for longer periods than those currently predicted by longevity models.
Our studies of the porosity and permeability of grouts suggest that pore size distribution rather than total porosity is the more important parameter in determining longevity.