skip to main content

Title: Modeling Coupled Processes in Clay Formations for Radioactive Waste Disposal

As a result of the termination of the Yucca Mountain Project, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has started to explore various alternative avenues for the disposition of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste. The overall scope of the investigation includes temporary storage, transportation issues, permanent disposal, various nuclear fuel types, processing alternatives, and resulting waste streams. Although geologic disposal is not the only alternative, it is still the leading candidate for permanent disposal. The realm of geologic disposal also offers a range of geologic environments that may be considered, among those clay shale formations. Figure 1-1 presents the distribution of clay/shale formations within the USA. Clay rock/shale has been considered as potential host rock for geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste throughout the world, because of its low permeability, low diffusion coefficient, high retention capacity for radionuclides, and capability to self-seal fractures induced by tunnel excavation. For example, Callovo-Oxfordian argillites at the Bure site, France (Fouche et al., 2004), Toarcian argillites at the Tournemire site, France (Patriarche et al., 2004), Opalinus clay at the Mont Terri site, Switzerland (Meier et al., 2000), and Boom clay at Mol site, Belgium (Barnichon et al., 2005) have all been under intensivemore » scientific investigations (at both field and laboratory scales) for understanding a variety of rock properties and their relations with flow and transport processes associated with geological disposal of nuclear waste. Clay/shale formations may be generally classified as indurated and plastic clays (Tsang et al., 2005). The latter (including Boom clay) is a softer material without high cohesion; its deformation is dominantly plastic. For both clay rocks, coupled thermal, hydrological, mechanical and chemical (THMC) processes are expected to have a significant impact on the long-term safety of a clay repository. For example, the excavation-damaged zone (EDZ) near repository tunnels can modify local permeability (resulting from induced fractures), potentially leading to less confinement capability (Tsang et al., 2005). Because of clay's swelling and shrinkage behavior (depending on whether the clay is in imbibition or drainage processes), fracture properties in the EDZ are quite dynamic and evolve over time as hydromechanical conditions change. To understand and model the coupled processes and their impact on repository performance is critical for the defensible performance assessment of a clay repository. Within the Natural Barrier System (NBS) group of the Used Fuel Disposition (UFD) Campaign at DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy, LBNL's research activities have focused on understanding and modeling such coupled processes. LBNL provided a report in this April on literature survey of studies on coupled processes in clay repositories and identification of technical issues and knowledge gaps (Tsang et al., 2010). This report will document other LBNL research activities within the natural system work package, including the development of constitutive relationships for elastic deformation of clay rock (Section 2), a THM modeling study (Section 3) and a THC modeling study (Section 4). The purpose of the THM and THC modeling studies is to demonstrate the current modeling capabilities in dealing with coupled processes in a potential clay repository. In Section 5, we discuss potential future R&D work based on the identified knowledge gaps. The linkage between these activities and related FEPs is presented in Section 6.« less
Authors:
; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
988175
Report Number(s):
LBNL-3900E
TRN: US1006642
DOE Contract Number:
DE-AC02-05CH11231
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA (US)
Sponsoring Org:
Earth Sciences Division
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54; BOOM CLAY; CLAYS; CONFINEMENT; DEFORMATION; DRAINAGE; EXCAVATION; FRACTURE PROPERTIES; FRACTURES; NUCLEAR ENERGY; NUCLEAR FUELS; PERMEABILITY; PLASTICS; RADIOACTIVE WASTE DISPOSAL; RADIOACTIVE WASTES; RADIOISOTOPES; RETENTION; SHALES; STORAGE; WASTES; YUCCA MOUNTAIN