A laboratory leaching test has been performed as part of a project to evaluate the suitability of tuff rocks at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as a site for a high-level nuclear waste repository. Glass samples were placed in water inside tuff vessels, and then the tuff vessels were placed in water inside Teflon containers. Glass-component leach rates and migration through the tuff were measured for samples of the ATM- 9actinide glass, which is a PNL 76-68 based glass doped with low levels of 99Tc, 237Np, 238U and 239Pu to simulate wastes. Disc samples of this glass were leached at 90°C for 30, 90, and 183 days inside tuff vessels using a natural groundwater (J-13 well-water) as the leachant. Some samples were held by 304L stainless steel supports to evaluate the effect of this metal on the release rate of glass constituents. At the end of each leaching interval, the J-13 water present inside and outside the rock vessel was analyzed for glass components in solution.
On the basis of these analyses, boron, molybdenum, and technetium appear to migrate through the rock at rates that depend on the porosity of each vessel and the time of reaction. The actinide elements (uranium, neptunium, and plutonium) were found only in the inner leachate. Sodium, silicon, and strontium are present in the rock as well as in the J-13 water, and the addition of these elements from the glass could not be determined. Normalized elemental mass loss values for boron, molybdenum, and technetium were calculated using the combined concentrations of the inner and outer leachates and assuming a negligible retention on the rock. The maximum normalized release was 2.3 g/m for technetium. Boron, molybdenum, technetium, and neptunium were released linearly with respect to each other, with boron and molybdenum released at about 85% of the technetium rate, and neptunium at 5-10% of the technetium rate. Plutonium was found at low levels in the inner leachate but was strongly sorbed on the steel and Teflon supports. Neptunium was sorbed to a lesser extent. Future analysis of the tuff vessels will determine whether the actinides were strongly sorbed on the surface of the tuff rock.