Hydro-mechanical behavior of an argillaceous limestone considered as a potential host formation for radioactive waste disposal

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The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), Canada's nuclear regulator, conducts regulatory research in order to develop independent knowledge on safety aspects related to the deep geological disposal of radioactive wastes. In Canada, the Cobourg limestone of the Michigan Basin is currently considered as a potential host formation for geological disposal. The understanding of the hydro-mechanical behavior of such a host rock is one of the essential requirements for the assessment of its performance as a barrier against radionuclide migration. The excavation of galleries and shafts of a deep geological repository (DGR) can induce damage to the surrounding rock. The excavation damaged zone (EDZ) has higher permeability and reduced strength compared to the undisturbed rock and those factors must be considered in the design and safety assessment of the DGR. The extent and characteristics of the EDZ depend on the size of the opening, the rock type and its properties, and the in situ stresses, among other factors. In addition, the extent and characteristics of the EDZ can change with time due to rock strength degradation, evolution of fractures within the EDZ, and the redistribution of pore pressure around the excavation. In this research project initiated by the CNSC, the authors conducted experimental and theoretical research in order to assess the hydro-mechanical behavior of the Cobourg limestone under undamaged and damaged conditions, both in the short and long terms. The short-term behavior was investigated by a program of triaxial tests with the measurement of permeability evolution on specimens of Cobourg limestone. The authors formulate a coupled hydro-mechanical model to simulate the stress-strain response and evolution of the permeability during those triaxial tests. Using creep and relaxation data from a similar limestone, the model was extended to include its long-term strength degradation. The model successfully simulated both the short- and long-term hydro-mechanical behavior of the limestone during those tests. This provides confidence that the main physical processes have been adequately understood and formulated.




Nguyen, T. S., Li, Z., Su, G., Nasseri, M. H. B., & Young, R. P. (2018). Hydro-mechanical behavior of an argillaceous limestone considered as a potential host formation for radioactive waste disposal. Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 10(6), 1063–1081. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrmge.2018.03.010

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