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DECOVALEX III BMT3/BENCHPAR WP4: The thermo-hydro-mechanical responses to a glacial cycle and their potential implications for deep geological disposal of nuclear fuel waste in a fractured crystalline rock mass
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2005 (English)In: International Journal of Rock Mechanics And Mining Sciences, ISSN 1365-1609, Vol. 42, no 5-6, 805-827 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

A number of studies related to past and on-going deep repository performance assessments have identified glaciation/ deglaciation as major future events in the next few hundred thousand years capable of causing significant impact on the long term performance of the repository system. Benchmark Test 3 (BMT3) of the international DECOVALEX III project has been designed to provide an illustrative example that explores the mechanical and hydraulic response of a fractured crystalline rock mass to a period of glaciation. The primary purpose of this numerical study is to investigate whether transient events associated with a glacial cycle could significantly influence the performance of a deep geological repository in a crystalline Shield setting. A conceptual site-scale (tens of kilometres) hydro-mechanical (HM) model was assembled based primarily on site-specific litho-structural, hydrogeological and geomechanical data from the Whiteshell Research Area in the Canadian Shield, with simplification and generalization. Continental glaciological modelling of the Laurentide ice sheet through the last glacial cycle lasting approximately 100,000 years suggests that this site was glaciated at about 60 ka and between about 22.5 and 11 ka before present with maximum ice sheet thickness reaching 2500 m and maximum basal water pressure head reaching 2000m. The ice-sheet/drainage model was scaled down to generate spatially and temporally variable hydraulic and mechanical glaciated surface boundary conditions for site-scale subsurface HM modelling and permafrost modelling. Under extreme periglacial conditions permafrost was able to develop down to the assumed 500-m repository horizon. Two- and three-dimensional coupled HM finite-element simulations indicate: during ice-sheet advance there is rapid rise in hydraulic head, high transient hydraulic gradients and high groundwater velocities 2-3 orders of magnitude higher than under nonglacial conditions; surface water recharges deeper than under nonglacial conditions; upon ice-sheet retreat, the gradients reverse; fracture zone network geometry, interconnectivity and hydraulic properties significantly influence flow domain response; residual elevated heads are preserved for 10,000s in the low-diffusivity rock; and no hydraulic jacking or shear failure occurs at depth. It was found that transient coupled modelling is necessary to capture the essence of glacial effects on Performance Assessment. Model dimensionality also significantly affects simulated results.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2005. Vol. 42, no 5-6, 805-827 p.
Keyword [en]
glaciation, permafrost, coupled THM responses, radioactive waste disposal, performance assessment, transient, hydrogeology, stress analysis, DECOVALEX III, 2D and 3D numerical modelling
National Category
Geophysical Engineering
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-37709DOI: 10.1016/j.ijrmms.2005.03.017ISI: 000231580700016ScopusID: 2-s2.0-22744442458OAI: diva2:434920
Available from: 2011-08-16 Created: 2011-08-16 Last updated: 2011-08-16Bibliographically approved

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Ivars, Diego Mas
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Land and Water Resources Engineering
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