Nature and engineering Working Together for a Safe Repository Page: 3 of 4
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ponents will increase the repository's inherent ability to
contain and isolate its radioactive contents.
The repository tunnels are an important engineered
barrier to potential radioactive releases. The tunnels
would be arranged so that any water that does enter
them can drain, by gravity, out of the drifts and away
from any others. Other measures, such as drain-holes,
could assist in diverting water.
The spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste
would be contained in waste packages designed to last
for thousands of years. Under the current design the
waste packages would consist of two metal cylinders,
one nested within the other. The inner cylinder would
be five centimeters (two inches) of stainless steel. It
would provide structural strength for the waste package.
The outer cylinder would be two centimeters (about one
inch) of a nickel alloy highly resistant to corrosion.
Inside their disposal tunnels, the waste packages would
be equipped with drip shields. These are sheets of
corrosion-resistant metal designed to protect the pack-
ages from seeping or dripping water. The metal used to
make these shields would be different than the metals
used to make the waste package. This means that there is
no need to depend upon the durability of only one
metal. These shields are not a key or vital component of
the repository. They are intended as a redundancy - an
additional safeguard designed to give added protection
to the waste packages.
The waste packages themselves will be placed on stands.
Their purpose is to present yet another barrier to contact
with water. The stands keep the waste packages off the
floor so that any water that pools on the tunnel floor
would not touch the waste packages.
Natural and engineered barriers work
together to provide necessary protection
When designing disposal systems intended to last longer
than recorded human history, scientists and engineers
must consider the possibility that one or more barriers,
natural or engineered, could fail to perform as expected.
Waste packages may fail earlier than envisioned due to
hidden defects. Alternatively, more water than expected
could eventually seep into the drifts. Fortunately, no
single barrier, natural or man-made, would have to
sustain the safety of the repository single-handedly.
Each of the barriers present, whether primary or
intended as an additional safeguard, would work as
a system designed to maintain the public's safety.
U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
P.O. Box 30307
North Las Vegas, NV 89036-0307
U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management
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United States. Department of Energy. Nature and engineering Working Together for a Safe Repository, report, September 12, 2000; Las Vegas, Nevada. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc782349/m1/3/: accessed December 15, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.