Pellet mixtures in isolation barriers
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Granular mixtures made of high-density pellets of bentonite are being evaluated as an alternative buffer material for waste isolation. Ease of handling is an often-mentioned advantage. The paper describes the experimental program performed to characterize the hydro-mechanical (HM) behaviour of compacted pellet mixtures. Grain size distribution was adjusted to a maximum pellet size compatible with the specimen’s dimensions. Dry densities of statically compacted specimens varied in most of the cases in the range from 1.3 to 1.5 Mg/m3. Pellets had a very high dry density, close to 2 Mg/m3. The outstanding characteristic of these mixtures is their discontinuous porosity. Pore sizes of the compacted pellets varied around 10 nm. However, the inter-pellet size of the pores was four to five orders of magnitude higher. This double porosity and the highly expansive nature of the pellets controlled all the hydraulic and mechanical properties of the mixture. Performed tests include infiltration tests using different water injection rates and mechanisms of water transfer (in liquid and vapour phases), suction-controlled oedometer tests and swelling pressure tests. The interpretation of some performed tests required back analysis procedures using a hydro-mechanical (HM) computer code. Material response was studied within the framework of the elastoplastic constitutive model proposed by Alonso et al. (1990) (Barcelona basic model, BBM). Parameters for the model were identified and also a set of hydraulic laws are necessary to perform coupled HM analysis. A large scale in-situ test (the “EB” test in Mont Terri, Switzerland) was described and analyzed. Rock barrier parameters were adjusted on the basis of available tests. The test excavation, barrier emplacement and forced hydration were simulated by means of the CODE_BRIGHT program. The comparison between measurements and computed results include data on relative humidity in the rock and the buffer, swelling pressures and displacements.
CitationAlonso, E. E.; Hoffmann, C.; Romero, E. Pellet mixtures in isolation barriers. "Journal of rock mechanics and geotechnical engineering", 2010, vol. 2, núm. 1, p. 12-31.