As for isolation of high-level radioactive waste by use of smectite clay it serves very well also for hindering radionuclides from low- and intermediate-level waste to contaminate groundwater. It can be used for minimizing groundwater flow through and along waste packages and for providing them with ductile embedment for eliminating the risk of damage caused by displacements in host rock or concrete vaults. The clay can have the form of liners placed and compacted on site over vaults constructed on the ground surface, or consist of compacted blocks of clay granules that are tightly placed around waste packages in underground drifts and rooms. In either case the initially incompletely water saturated clay will swell in conjunction with water uptake until tight contact with the confining medium has been established. The clay seals must be sufficiently dense to fulfill criteria set with respect to hydraulic conductivity and swelling capacity, paying due attention to the salt content in the porewater. Their physical and chemical stabilities must be acceptable in short- and long-term perspectives, which is a few hundred years for most low-level wastes up to tens of thousands of years for long-lived waste.
Keywords: Low-level radioactive waste (LLW), smectite clay, radionuclides, underground disposal of radioactive waste, mineralogy of clays.