In a highly confined medium corresponding to geological repository conditions, the alteration rate of the French SON68 inactive nuclear reference glass drops by about four orders of magnitude below the initial rate. However, extended experiments lasting months or years provide evidence of a virtually constant or slowly decreasing residual alteration rate. Although very low, this rate could account for most of the altered glass thickness after 10 000 years. Experiments at high temperatures and especially high glass-surface-area-to-solution-volume ratios were performed to reveal and quantify the predominant mechanisms underlying the residual rate. The authors describe the characterization of the solution chemistry, the crystallized secondary phases, and the amorphous gel observed after alteration of the French SON68 inactive reference glass, and discuss their implications in terms of long-term behavior modeling. A slow diffusion mechanism is identified in the solid, involving alkalis in particular but also boron. This mechanism results in higher concentrations in solution that affect the system chemistry, not only by slightly modifying the pH and element speciation in solution (e.g. silicon), but also by inducing the precipitation of new crystallized secondary phases that can consume glass constituent elements in the same way as simple solution renewal. Diffusion and the precipitation of secondary phases are two mechanisms to be considered to account for the residual rate.