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Auenstein, Switzerland

Alexander W.R.,Bedrock Geosciences | Milodowski A.E.,British Geological Survey | Pitty A.F.,Pitty EIA Consulting | Hardie S.M.L.,Scottish Enterprise | And 5 more authors.
Mineralogical Magazine | Year: 2012

The Cyprus Natural Analogue Project was carried out due to the requirement to support ongoing laboratory and modelling efforts on the potential reaction of the bentonite buffer with cementitious leachates in the repository engineered barrier system. Although it is known that the higher pH (12.5 - 13) leachates from ordinary Portland cement will degrade bentonite, it is unclear if this will also be the case for the lower pH (10-11) leachates typical of low alkali cements. Ongoing laboratory and underground rock laboratory programmes, which are currently investigating this, face the obstacle of slow kinetics and the production of short-lived metastable phases, meaning obtaining unambiguous results may take decades. It was therefore decided to implement a focussed natural analogue study on bentonite/low alkali cement leachate reactions to provide indications of the probable long-term reaction products and reaction pathways to provide feedback on the existing short-term investigations noted above and to ascertain if any critical path research and development needs to be instigated now. The results of the analyses presented here, in this short overview of the project, suggest that there has been very limited alkaline groundwater reaction with the bentonite. This is generally supported by both the geomorphological evidence and the natural decay series data which imply groundwater/rock interaction in the last 105 a. © 2012 The Mineralogical Society. Source


Alexander W.R.,Bedrock Geosciences | Milodowski A.E.,British Geological Survey | Pitty A.F.,Pitty EIA Consulting | Hardie S.M.L.,Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center | And 5 more authors.
Clay Minerals | Year: 2013

Bentonite is one of the more safety-critical components of the engineered barrier system in the disposal concepts developed for many types of radioactive waste. It is used due to its favourable properties (including plasticity, swelling capacity, colloid filtration, low hydraulic conductivity, high retardation of key radionuclides) and its stability in relevant geological environments. However, bentonite is unstable under alkaline conditions and this has driven interest in low-alkali cements (leachate pH of 10 À 11). To build a robust safety case, it is important to have supporting natural analogue data to confirm understanding of the likely long-term performance of bentonite. In Cyprus, the presence of natural bentonite in close proximity to natural alkaline groundwaters permits the zones of potential bentonite/alkaline water reaction to be studied as an analogy of the potential reaction zones in the repository. Here, the results indicate minimal volumetric reaction of bentonite, with production of a palygorskite secondary phase. © 2013 Mineralogical Society. Source


Alexander W.R.,Bedrock Geosciences | Reijonen H.M.,Saanio Riekkola Oy | McKinley I.G.,MCM Consulting
Swiss Journal of Geosciences | Year: 2015

The geological disposal of radioactive wastes is generally accepted to be the most practicable approach to handling the waste inventory built up from over 70 years accumulation of power production, research–medical–industrial and military wastes. Here, a brief overview of the approach to geological disposal is presented along with some information on repository design and the assessment of repository post-closure safety. One of the significant challenges for repository safety assessment is how to extrapolate the likely long-term (i.e. ten thousand to a million years) behaviour of the repository from the necessarily short term data from analytical laboratories and underground rock laboratories currently available. One approach, common to all fields of the geosciences, but also in such diverse fields as philosophy, biology, linguistics, law etc., is to utilise the analogue argumentation methodology. For the specific case of radioactive waste management, the term ‘natural analogue’ has taken on a particular meaning associated with providing supporting arguments for a repository safety assessment. This approach is discussed here with a brief overview of how the study of natural (and, in particular, geological) systems can provide supporting information on the likely long-term evolution of a deep geological waste repository. The overall approach is discussed and some relevant examples are presented, including the use of uranium ore bodies to assess waste form stability, the investigation of native metals to define the longevity of waste containers and how natural clays can provide information on the stability of waste tunnel backfill material. © 2015, Swiss Geological Society. Source


Reijonen H.M.,Saanio Riekkola Oy | Alexander W.R.,Bedrock Geosciences
Swiss Journal of Geosciences | Year: 2015

The practice of utilising natural analogues in assessing the long-term behaviour of various components of geological repositories for radioactive waste is already well established in most disposal programmes. Numerous studies on bentonites, focussing on bentonite interaction with other components of the engineered barrier system and a range of host rock environments, are present in the literature. In this article, recent bentonite natural analogue studies are briefly reviewed, and gaps in the current literature identified, with the aim of (1) suggesting where relevant new information could be obtained by data mining published bentonite natural analogue studies with a new focus on current safety case requirements, (2) collecting relevant information by revisiting known bentonite analogue sites and conducting investigations with more appropriate analytical techniques, and (3) identifying novel study sites where, for example, bentonite longevity in very dilute to highly saline groundwater conditions can be studied. It must be noted that the use of natural analogues in safety case development is likely to be site and repository design-specific in nature and thus emphasis is placed on the appropriate use of relevant natural analogue data on bentonite longevity. © 2015, Swiss Geological Society. Source


Milodowski A.E.,British Geological Survey | Norris S.,Radioactive Waste Management Ltd RWM | Russell Alexander W.,Bedrock Geosciences
Applied Geochemistry | Year: 2016

Bentonite is one of the more safety-critical components of the engineered barrier system in the disposal concepts developed for many types of radioactive waste. Bentonite is utilised because of its favourable properties which include plasticity, swelling capacity, colloid filtration, low hydraulic conductivity, high retardation of key radionuclides and stability in geological environments of relevance to waste disposal. However, bentonite is unstable under the highly alkaline conditions induced by Ordinary Portland Cement (OPC: initial porewater pH > 13) and this has driven interest in using low alkali cements (initial porewater pH9-11) as an alternative to OPC. To build a robust safety case for a repository for radioactive wastes, it is important to have supporting natural analogue data to confirm understanding of the likely long-term performance of bentonite in these lower alkali conditions. In Cyprus, the presence of natural bentonite in association with natural alkaline groundwater permits the zones of potential bentonite/alkaline water reaction to be studied as an analogy of the potential reaction between low alkali cement leachates and the bentonite buffer in the repository. Here, the results indicate that a cation diffusion front has moved some metres into the bentonite whereas the bentonite reaction front is restricted to a few millimetres into the clay. This reaction front shows minimal reaction of the bentonite (volumetrically, less than 1% of the bentonite), with production of a palygorskite secondary phase following reaction of the primary smectites over time periods of 105-106 years. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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