Some of the illustrative concepts for the disposal of intermediate-level waste in a geological disposal facility in the UK employ a cementitious backfill around the waste packages. The concept for higher strength rocks would use a highly alkaline backfill composed of Portland cement (now known as CEM I), hydrated lime and limestone flour, referred to as Nirex reference vault backfill (NRVB).
This paper reports a study of the extensive leaching of cured NRVB in a range of generic leachant compositions (deionized water, 0.1 M and 1 M NaCl solutions) under flow-through conditions using a flexible wall permeameter. The experiments were designed to run for up to two years and to pass at least 1000 volumes of leachant (defined as the cumulative leachate volume produced/NRVB solid specimen volume) through the NRVB samples. Results for the pH evolution profiles of the leachates and the microstructural analysis of the unleached and leached samples are presented.