Hydraulic behaviour of bentonite based mixtures in engineered barriers: The Backfill and Plug Test at the Äspö HRL (Sweden)
ColaboratorLedesma Villalba, Alberto; Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Departament d'Enginyeria del Terreny, Cartogràfica i Geofísica
Document typeDoctoral thesis
PublisherUniversitat Politècnica de Catalunya
Rights accessOpen Access
In 1996 the Backfill and Plug Test Project started at the Äspö Hard Rock Laboratory (Sweden) managed by SKB (the Swedish Radioactive Waste Agency). The Backfill and Plug Test Project makes up an important part of SKB's research in order to store nuclear waste in a deep geological repository in a safe manner. ENRESA (the Spanish Radioactive Waste Agency) collaborates in this project with the Swedish companies SKB and Clay Technology in characterising the hydro-mechanical behaviour of the backfill material used to backfill a gallery.The backfill, obtained by mixing 30% of sodium bentonite MX-80 and 70% of crushed granite rock by weight, which maximum grain size was 20 mm, has been experimentally investigated. The experimental campaign took into account the salt water effects (up to 16 g/L) on its hydro-mechanical behaviour. Because of the bentonite content, its activity is quite large if compared with natural clayey soils.Therefore, changes in the pore fluid chemistry influence the hydro-mechanical behaviour of this mixture. Due to the current application of the mixture, as candidate for sealing galleries in a future repository for nuclear waste, interest was focused on the variation of permeability related to variation of salt concentration in pore fluid.Oedometer tests on specimens permeated with different salt water contents and water uptake tests permeated with different salt water contents were performed. Compaction tests with distilled and salt water were also performed. Osmotic suction was investigated on a different mixture of sodium bentonite and sand keeping the same weight ratio. Crushed granite was substituted by sand in order to use transistor psychrometers were used in this determination.The experimental study of the mixture included the design and calibration of a new mini-piezometer which allows performing constant and variable head tests in saturated clayey soils. Some numerical tools were also developed to analyse pulse tests performed in laboratory and in situ (tests performed in late March of 2003 in the ZEDEX gallery in the ÄHRL full-scale laboratory). Different methods (analytical, semi-analytical and numerical) were used to analyse the pulse tests performed in laboratory and in situ.Finally, the thesis focused on using a new finite element simulator, which solves thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical (THMC) problems in a fully coupled way (Guimarães, 2002), to simulate the saturation process of a barrier for nuclear waste made up with this mixture. Interest was mainly focused on simulating the influence on the mixture hydraulic behaviour when salt concentration in pore fluid changed. A simple geochemical model, which took into account the ion exchange reaction between of Na+ and Ca2+, was considered. An empirical law of permeability variation with pore fluid salt concentration, obtained from the experimental information, was implemented in the finite element code. Effects of mixture molecular diffusion were also investigated, pointing out the importance of this parameter when transport of solutes in porous media is solved. Total suction was computed as the sum of matric suction and osmotic suction. Osmotic suction was calculated by obtaining salt concentrations and by using the Van't Hoff equation. In this way, osmotic suction was not assumed constant as it is usually considered in engineering practice.This thesis has contributed to the characterisation of a material, which is difficult to investigate, and it has provided with accurate information of the backfill permeability, one of the key parameters when designing a nuclear waste repository.
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