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Non-nuclear energy


Fission and radiation protection

Fundamental Processes of Radionuclide Migration: Deepening our Understanding of Repositories

The leading option for the disposal of long-lived radioactive waste is in deep geological repositories. The Integrated Project FUNMIG deals with possible mobility/migration of radionuclides in the far field, i.e. any potential movement of radionuclides originating in the waste and migrating through the near field towards the biosphere. FUNMIG gathers together European and other international expertise to improve the basic scientific understanding of relevant processes and will bring this knowledge to assist the demonstration of disposal safety, provide training to interested stakeholders worldwide and communicate the outcome to all interested parties.

Broadening know-how, assisting implementation

One test gallery at the Grimsel Test Site, Switzerland © Courtesy of ENRESA
One test gallery at the Grimsel Test Site, Switzerland
© Courtesy of ENRESA
Depending on their geographic situation, different geological environments or host-rocks are studied in different countries as candidate structures for deep repositories for long-lived nuclear waste. In the European Union, clay-rich, crystalline and salt host-rocks are under investigation. These host-rock types show a wide spectrum of both common, but also very different, features and issues. For this reason, this unified European experimental programme investigates both common basic processes and those that are specific to the different types of hostrock. For those Member States that have not yet defined a specific host-rock type in their national programmes, the project presents a unique opportunity to broaden their knowledge base of generic processes and become involved in the more implementation-oriented project activities. This is a key contribution to the definition and improvement of their future site-specific investigation programmes.

For safety and performance assessment, the complete repository system is typically divided into three areas, the near field (NF), the far field (FF) and the biosphere. For deep geological repositories, the near field comprises the waste, the immediate surrounding environment (including engineering barriers), and the part of the geosphere that is significantly affected by the repository. The present project deals with the far field, i.e. the part of the hostrock not significantly affected by the repository.

Filling data gaps, building trust

The experimental programme includes the development of basic data that are currently missing and qualitative statements concerning the potential impact of a variety of processes. A broad set of research activities will be carried out covering detailed studies under controlled laboratory conditions, underground laboratory studies, and analysis of the hydrological and geochemical behaviour of relevant natural systems. Investigation under controlled laboratory conditions and underground laboratory studies will provide process understanding and the quantitative data needed for the performance assessment of depositories. Agreement with observations under natural geological conditions plays a key part in providing trust in these data as regards overall safety.

Adding to scientific knowledge and development

Performance assessment relies on confidence in adequate understanding of relevant processes and keeping up with the continuously increasing expectation level for the knowledge associated with on-going progress in science and technology. This project will assist countries with advanced investigation programmes to ensure that relevant processes are adequately understood and addressed. It will also provide the basis for continued development in the understanding and treatment of relevant processes, and help Member States and applicant countries to achieve the required scientific and technological implementation level. Main achievements expected from FUNMIG are increased trust in the capability for safe nuclear deep-waste disposal in Europe and harmonisation of competence levels throughout the continent.

Partnership for safety and confidence

The project currently has 70 partners comprising contractors and associated groups. Organisations with a keen interest in project participation can enter as an associated group. Through this open process for extending the project partnership, the overall number is expected to increase as the project progresses. Currently (September 2005), partners come from 17 European countries, Korea and Canada, with representatives from national waste management organisations, a wide spectrum of research organisations, universities, small and medium-sized enterprises and national regulatory bodies. The project thus involves both types of end-users, namely those responsible for public safety interests, and those with responsibility for disposal of the nuclear waste. Training and the broad involvement of universities also contributes to guaranteeing an adequate competence level in the future. The large number of countries participating ensures both a high competence level within the project and the necessary improvement of the situation in other countries. This harmonisation and dissemination of knowledge will help ensure public safety and public confidence in the disposal option.

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