The disposal of heat-generating radioactive waste in deep underground facilities requires a sparing use of spatial resources on the one side and favorable temperature conditions over the project lifetime on the other side. Under heat-sensitive conditions, these goals run in opposite directions and therefore a balance of some kind must be found. Often the elected strategy is to determine the size of the repository by capping the temperatures in the near-field, thus setting an upper limit to the deterioration of barrier materials. Alternatively, the spatial resources available in the siting area can be used to further reduce temperatures as long as supplementary benefits are returned from doing so. Using analytical modeling of the heat flow in the circumambient rock of a repository for high-level waste and spent fuel, this contribution examines possible obstacles in substantiating the safety case, namely the retrievability of waste during the operational lifetime of the facility, the representativeness of pilot disposal areas for monitoring, and the effect of thermal anomalies underground. The results indicate that there are, amongst the visited criteria, several benefits to the temperature-optimizing strategy over the prevailing space-optimizing concepts. The right balance between saving spatial resources and obtaining optimal temperature conditions is yet to be found.
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