Technical Report NTB 91-32

Chemistry of the redox-sensitive elemensLiterature review

As part of the safety assessment for a nuclear waste repository, the migration of the radioactive elements from the waste matrix to the biosphere has to be modelled. The geosphere is an important barrier and a consideration of the retention of the radioactive isotopes needs knowledge of sorption coefficients and solubilities. Important long-lived isotopes in the high level radioactive waste are the fission products selenium, technetium, palladium and tin, and the actinide neptunium, which are all redox sensitive elements. A transport model using conservative sorption values predicts mainly doses from these five elements. Since the individual oxidation states of the redox sensitive elements have different and largely unknown sorption properties and solubilities, the realistic doses might be far less.

The relevant literature about the chemistry of the five elements is summarized and is planned to serve as the basis for an experimental programme. For every element, the literature about the general chemistry, selected sorption studies, geochemistry, and analytical methods is reviewed. It was found that the knowledge about some of these points is very limited. Even the general chemistry of some of the elements is not well known, because they have only limited applications and research concentrates only on certain aspects. Most of the sorption studies in the context of nuclear waste concentrate on a few of the relevant elements and others have been neglected up to now.

The simulation of a realistic system in the laboratory poses some problems, which have to be solved as well. The literature about this subject is also critically reviewed.

The elements which are most mobile under realistic far-field conditions are identified and it is recommended to concentrate research on these at the beginning.