At present, with the exception of hydrofracture and the waste calcine solids at the National Reactor Testing Station, all high-activity wastes is stored in tanks. Owing to federal regulations, all high-activity wastes must be converted to solids and stored in a federal repository (order issued on November 14, 1970). The most likely sites for storage appear to be geologic formations, particularly bedded salt.
Geological formations are favored because it is believed that if their integrity can be maintained, wastes will remain in place for geologic periods of time. Field scale demonstrations of 5,000,000 curies of stored fission products in irradiated fuel elements at a depth of 1000 ft in a salt mine at Lyons, Kansas, indicate that salt storage, if the integrity of the geologic formation can be maintained, will be successful (Bradshaw and McClain 1971). Salt was favored as the geologic material because even though highly soluble, it is self-sealing at moderate increases in temperature and pressure, and salt formations are widely available in the United States. Other geologic materials such as basalt, gneiss, and schists are also being considered for storage of solidified wastes. The possibility of high-activity liquid waste storage in caverns excavated in basement rock below the Savannah River plant is being vigorously pursued.
However, because of uncertainties about long-term (> 1000 years) geologic behavior and the effects of stored wastes, more serious consideration is being given to short-term (<100 years) storage of solidified wastes in man-made structures for easier control, maintenance, and retrieval, if necessary.
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