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The ‘long tail’ of anthropogenic CO2 decline in the atmosphere and its consequences for post-closure performance assessments for disposal of radioactive wastes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1613-1623
Number of pages11
JournalMineralogical Magazine
Issue number6
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Jul 2015
DatePublished (current) - Nov 2015


The extended timescales involved in the decay of radioactive wastes to safe levels mean that geological disposal facilities must continue to function effectively long into the future. It is therefore essential to consider long-term climate evolution in post-closure performance assessments in order to evaluate a geological disposal system's response and robustness to a variety of potential environmental changes, driven by both natural and anthropogenic forcings. In this paper, we illustrate the multiple decay components that characterize the primary driver of climate change – atmospheric CO2 – in response to fossil fuel carbon emissions. We perform a multi-exponential analysis on a series of atmospheric CO2 decay curves predicted by an Earth system model and create an empirical response function that encapsulates the long-term (>1 kyr) removal of excess CO2 from the atmosphere. We present this response function as a simple tool for rapidly projecting the future atmospheric CO2 concentration resulting from any plausible cumulative release of CO2. We discuss the implications of the long 'tail' to this atmospheric CO2 decay curve, both in terms of future climate evolution as well as potential impacts on radioactive waste repositories.

Additional information

Date of Acceptance: 09/07/2015

    Structured keywords

  • Cabot Institute

    Research areas

  • Carbon cycle, Climate Change, Nuclear waste

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    Final published version, 446 KB, PDF document

    Licence: CC BY


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