Characterization of Cebama low-pH reference concrete and assessment of its alteration with representative waters in radioactive waste repositories

Tapio Vehmas (Corresponding Author), Vanessa Montoya (Corresponding Author), Maria Cruz Alonso, Radek Vašíček, Emily Rastrick, Stephane Gaboreau, Petr Večerník, Markku Leivo, Erika Holt, Nicolas Fink, Naila Ait Mouheb, Jiří Svoboda, David Read, Radek Červinka, Rita Vasconcelos, Claire Corkhill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Concretes, mortars and grouts are used for structural and isolation purposes in radioactive and nuclear waste repositories. For example, concrete is used for deposition tunnel end plugs, engineered barriers, mortars for rock bolting and injection grouts for fissure sealing. Despite of the materials anticipated functionality, it is extremely important to understand the long-term material behaviour in repository environments. A reference concrete and mortar for the Cebama project based on a cement, silica and blast furnace slag ternary blend were designed and characterized in different laboratories with multiple experimental methods (XRD, XAS at the Fe and Cl K-edges, SEM-EDX, 29Si and 27Al MAS-NMR, TG-DSC, MIP and Kerosene porosimetry) and techniques (punch strength tests). The reference concrete enabled comparison of results from different institutes and experimental techniques, unifying the individual results to more comprehensive body. The Cebama reference concrete and mortar were designed to have high durability and compatible formulation with respect to an engineered barrier system in clay or crystalline host-rocks, having pore solution pH significantly lower than traditional concretes. This work presents main results regarding their characterization and alteration in contact with representative waters present in radioactive waste repositories. Pore solution pH of the matured reference concrete was 11.4–11.6. The main hydrated phases were C–S–H and C-A-S-H gels with a Ca:Si ratio between 0.5 and 0.7 and an Al:Si ratio of 0.05. Minor phases were ettringite and hydrotalcite. Iron(III) could be in the C–S–H phases and no Cl-bearing solid phases were identified. Connected porosity and pore size distribution was characterized by MIP observing that, as expected, the size of the pores in the hydrated cement phases varies from the micro-to the nanoscale. Connected porosity of both materials were low. Compressive strength of the concrete was 115 MPa, corresponding to traditional high-performance concrete. Degradation of these materials in contact with different waters mainly produce their decalcification and enrichment in Mg for waters containing high amount of this element, like the clay waters.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104703
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Early online date4 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Blast furnace slag
  • Concrete
  • Low-pH cement
  • Mortar
  • Nuclear waste repository


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