Colloids generated from the engineered barriers of a high level radioactive waste repository (HLWR) emplaced in crystalline rock could play a significant role in radionuclide transport and they are of concern for the safety assessment of these repositories.
The main objectives of this study are: a) to analyze the transport properties of colloids in a crystalline fractured rock under hydrodynamic conditions as similar as possible to those expected in a repository (i.e. low flow rates) and b) to discuss the effects of their presence on the transport of radionuclides.
Transport experiments with bentonite and latex colloids in a fractured granite column from the Grimsel Test Site (Switzerland) were carried out, under geochemical conditions ensuring colloid stability (alkaline and low ionic strength water). Transport experiments were also carried out with 85Sr and 233U and the results with and without the presence of bentonite colloids were compared.
Colloid filtration in the fracture was always observed, even when colloids presented high stability and the conditions were unfavorable to colloid attachment to rock surfaces, being both the colloids and the rock negatively charged and the fracture surface smooth. The retention in the fracture depended on the water flow rate, increasing the retention as the water flow decreased.
This work illustrates as both the mobile and retained fraction of colloids, which strongly depend on the hydrodynamic conditions, are of importance in the overall radionuclide mobility.