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Open Access Mineralogical investigations of the first package of the alternative buffer material test – II. Exchangeable cation population rearrangement

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Bentonites are candidate materials for the encapsulation of radioactive waste. In the 'Alternative Buffer Material test' (ABM), compacted ring-shaped blocks of eleven different buffer materials (mainly bentonites) were packed vertically on top of each other with an iron tube as heater in the centre. These buffer materials started with various exchangeable cation populations (ECpopulation). The first 'ABM package' was terminated 28 months after installation and the bentonites had been exposed to the maximum temperature (130ÂșC) for about one year. The aim of the present study is first: to describe modification of the cation exchange population, and second to understand the influence of the groundwater on cation exchange at different scales. No significant horizontal variation of any exchangeable cation (EC) was detected between 1 and 7 cm distance from contact with the iron tube. Large total differences of the ECpopulations, however, were observed for the individual blocks after the field experiment (n = 21 blocks) with respect to the composition of the reference materials. The average cation exchange capacity (CEC) values of the analysed bentonites (n = 9 blocks) decreased by 5.5 meq/100 (1.1 – 8.8 meq/100 g) after the experiment. Exchangeable Na+ and Mg2+ decreased on average, whereas Ca2+ increased. This trend was pronounced in the top region of the parcel (upper seven blocks). Although most changes occurred on the large scale of the whole test parcel, small but important changes were also recorded in the vertical direction on the centimetre scale. The observed differences cannot be explained assuming simply that a bentonite reacts only with neighbouring blocks, which would mean that the system was more or less closed. The differences are much larger and the only conclusion from this observation is that the whole package seems to be influenced by the groundwater which was added from a water tank at the experiment site, enabling at least partial equilibration between the different blocks.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-05-01

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