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Modeling Two-Phase-Flow Interactions Across a Bentonite Clay and Fractured Rock Interface

Benoît Dessirier, Jerker Jarsjö, Andrew Frampton

Nuclear Technology / Volume 187 / Number 2 / August 2014 / Pages 147-157

Technical Paper / Radioactive Waste Management and Disposal /

Deep geological repositories are generally considered as suitable environments for final disposal of spent nuclear fuel. In the Swedish and Finnish repository design concept, canisters are to be placed in deep underground tunnels in sparsely fractured crystalline bedrock, in deposition holes in which each canister is embedded with an expansive bentonite-clay-mixture buffer. A set of semigeneric two-dimensional radially symmetric TOUGH2 simulations are conducted to investigate the multiphase dynamics and interactions between water and air in a bentonite-rock environment. The main objective is to identify how sensitive saturation times of bentonite are to the geometry of the rock fractures and to commonly adopted simplifications in the unsaturated flow description such as Richards assumptions. Results show that the location of the intersection between the fracture system and the deposition hole is a key factor affecting saturation times. A potential long-lasting desaturation of the rock matrix close to the bentonite-rock interface is also identified extending up to 10 cm inside the rock. Two-phase-flow models predict systematically longer saturation times compared to a simplified Richards approximation, which is frequently used to represent unsaturated flows. The discrepancy diverges considerably as full saturation is approached.

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