Locating a repository in the unsaturated zone of arid regions eliminates or simplifies many of the technological problems involved in designing a repository for operation below the water table and predicting its performance. It also offers possible accessibility and ease of monitoring throughout the operational period and possible retrieval of waste long after. The risks inherent in such a repository appear to be no greater than in one located in the saturated zone; in fact, many aspects of such a repository's performance will be much easier to predict and the uncertainties will be reduced correspondingly. A major new concern would be whether future climatic changes could produce significant consequences due to possible rise of the water table or increased flux of water through the repository. If spent fuel were used as a waste form, a second new concern would be the rates of escape of gaseous iodine-129 and carbon-14 to the atmosphere.
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Disposal of high-level nuclear waste above the water table in arid regions