According to the Planning Act of 28th June 2006, Andra is in charge of ensuring the sustainable management of all radioactive waste generated in France, especially the high-level and long-lived vitrified waste produced from spent fuel recycling.
Since 2006, all the studies and research related to the components of HLW cells have been incorporated into a broader R&D program which aims at characterizing and modeling (i) the glass matrix dissolution, (ii) the corrosion of the overpack and the lining, and (iii) the claystone evolution in the near field, considering all the interactions between these surrounding materials. This program, coordinated by Andra, has involved up to eighteen laboratories.
After closure of disposal cells and overpack failure, glass alteration is expected to begin in partially saturated conditions due to hydrogen production resulting from carbon steel corrosion in anoxic conditions. Therefore, the glass should at least partially be hydrated by water vapor during thousands of years until complete saturation. A part of the studies aimed to determine the glass behavior in such conditions, the influence of the main parameters (temperature, relative humidity) and consequences of vapor hydration on subsequent radionuclides release by water leaching.
In addition, the major part of the work focused on the influence of the environment on glass alteration. The effect of clay pore water on glass alteration rates (initial rate, rate drop and residual rate) was determined and particularly that of pH and magnesium. The nature of steel corrosion products and their interactions with glass alteration were also investigated. All these studies relied on experiments in surface laboratories, in Andra’s underground laboratory, together with natural or archeological analogs and modeling studies.