The scientific community in countries producing nuclear power, including Switzerland and the United States of America (USA), has come to recognise that deep geological disposal is the best option for safe, long-term management of high-level radioactive waste resulting from reactor operations. In 2009, the USDOE initiated a Used Fuel Disposition Campaign aimed at conducting research and development for generic repositories in various geological media, including crystalline rock. As a result of its interest in becoming more involved in international collaboration with ongoing R&D programmes, the USDOE decided to join the research programme at Nagra's Grimsel Test Site. Organisations from eleven other countries are currently partners in the underground laboratory projects.
The USA is contributing both manpower and financial support to the "Colloid Formation and Migration" (CFM) project, in which a programme of laboratory and field experiments is looking at the influence of microscopically small particles (colloids that are present in the groundwater in the crystalline rock) on the transport of radioactive substances. Researchers from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in particular will be involved in the development and testing of radionuclide transport models. Jay Jones of the USDOE sees the Grimsel Test Site as an attractive partner: "The existing infrastructure at the site, including the ability to use actual radionuclides in a field setting, and the opportunities for collaboration with several other international partners make the Grimsel Test Site special and unique."
The wide participation in the Grimsel programme also offers interesting perspectives for the other partners: "International exchange of know-how and experience is important in the nuclear waste management field. Everyone involved in the research programme benefits from the results we obtain here", says Ingo Blechschmidt, Manager of the Test Site. At Grimsel, scientists from around the world have been investigating the properties of granite and concepts for emplacing waste in deep repositories since 1984. The laboratory is used exclusively for research purposes.