The MD Design—A Cool Concept for Geologic Disposal of Radioactive Waste

by Leif G. Eriksson, Golder Associates Inc, Atlanta, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: High Level Radioactive Waste Management 1991


The scheduled disposal capacity for spent nuclear fuel and other high-level radioactive wastes (HLW) is inadequate and the estimated supply of recoverable uranium for continued nuclear energy production is scarce in the beginning of the 21st century. Hence, the development of a safe method for permanent disposal of HLW is an imminent global imperative to the continued development and use of nuclear energy, as is the prudent use of available uranium resources. However, permanent disposal of HLW poses a potential long-term public health and environmental hazard (risk) presenting unprecedented scientific challenges as well as moral, ethical and political concerns. The Minimum Disturbance to the Geologic Setting (MD) Design is an integrated, generic, low-temperature (cool), cradle-to-grave, radioactive waste management system for safe geologic disposal of radioactive waste. The application of the MD Design introduced in this paper is a safe and cost-effective geologic repository for permanent disposal of HLW. The main safety features are: highly focused site selection and site characterization; mechanical mining; maximum near-field geologic setting temperature of 90 degrees Centigrade (°C) (194 degrees Fahrenheit [°F]); long-term primary (substantial) radionuclide containment by the engineered barriers system (EBS); long-term near-field monitoring; and a three-tiered licensing process. The main cost-effective features are: concurrent construction and operation; remote controlled handling and inroom emplacement of HLW; concurrent temporary and permanent disposal of HLW; and ready long-term access to the emplaced HLW. The unique combination of new and old safety and HLW disposal concepts in the MD Design offers potential solutions to three global HLW disposal problems: credible validation of safety assessments; enhanced HLW disposal capacity; and ready long-term access to a reusable, scarce natural energy resource - uranium.

Subject Headings: Uranium | Conceptual design | Geology | Radioactive wastes | Waste disposal | Health hazards | Risk management | Fuels | Maryland | United States

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