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Hydro-mechanical behaviour of bentonite-sand mixture used as sealing materials in radioactive waste disposal galleries

Abstract : In order to verify the effectiveness of the geological high-level radioactive waste disposal, the French Institution of Radiation protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) has implemented the SEALEX project to control the long-term performance of swelling clay-based sealing systems, and to which this work is closely related. Within this project, In-situ tests are carried out on compacted bentonite-sand mixture in natural conditions and in a representative scale. This material is one of the most appropriate sealing materials because of its low permeability and good swelling capacity. Once installed, this material will be hydrated by water from the host-rock and start swelling to close all gaps in the system, in particular the internal pores, rock fractures and technological voids. Afterwards, swelling pressure will develop. In the present work, laboratory experiments were performed to investigate the sealing properties under this complex hydro-mechanical conditions taking into consideration the effect of technological voids. The microstructure of the material in its initial state was first examined by microfocus X-ray computed tomography (µCT). This allowed identification of the distribution of grains of sand and bentonite as well as the pores in the sample. Macro-pores are found concentrated at the periphery of the sample and between the grains of sand, which could affect in the short term the permeability. The hydration of the same material in limited swelling conditions was then observed by 2D photography and 3D µCT. The swelling mechanism with bentonite gel production, the swelling kinetics, the density decrease and the homogenisation of the material were analyzed. The hydration in the conditions of prevented swelling was also studied by swelling pressure tests with radial and axial measurements of swelling pressure. The difference found between the axial and radial swelling pressures suggested the presence of an anisotropic microstructure. Mock-up tests at a 1/10 scale of the in situ SEALEX tests were carried out for the study of the recovery capacity of the mixture in case of an accident causing the failure of the confining structures. Local measurements of swelling pressures along the sample allowed analysis of the density gradient evolution during axial swelling. Finally, a comparison between the laboratory results and those from an in-situ test was done, showing a good fitting in the relative humidity curves for the same infiltration length while considering the saturation effect from the technological void. The swelling pressure comparison was more complex because of the different configurations of the tests (existence of technological void in-situ that could affect the kinetics)
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Submitted on : Tuesday, April 29, 2014 - 5:22:10 PM
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  • HAL Id : pastel-00985466, version 1


Simona Saba. Hydro-mechanical behaviour of bentonite-sand mixture used as sealing materials in radioactive waste disposal galleries. Other. Université Paris-Est, 2013. English. ⟨NNT : 2013PEST1140⟩. ⟨pastel-00985466⟩



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