The study investigated the basic geomechanical and mineralogical evolution of the bentonite barrier under various experimental boundary conditions which replicated the near-field Thermo-Hydro-Chemico (THC) conditions in a repository. The relationships between the physicochemical alterations and changes in the geotechnical properties have seldom been studied, especially on a consistent dataset. This paper attempts to link the physicochemical properties of Na-bentonite (MX-80) to the macro-scale engineering functionality of the bentonite post THC exposure. Experiments investigated the impact of THC variables on the engineering and physicochemical functionality of the bentonite with respect to its application within a High-Level Waste (HLW) engineered barrier system. Intrinsic alterations to the MX-80 bentonite under relatively short-term exposure to hydrothermal and chemical conditions were measured. Additionally, two long-term tests were conducted under ambient conditions to consider the impact of exposure duration. The intrinsic measurements were then related to the overall performance of the bentonite as a candidate barrier material for application in a UK geological disposal facility. Findings indicate that exposure to thermo-saline-corrosion conditions (i.e., corrosion products derived from structural grade 275 carbon steel) inhibits the free swell capacity and plasticity of the bentonite. However, the measured values remained above the design limits set out for the Swedish multi-barrier concept, from which the UK concept may take a lead. Corrosion alone does not appear to significantly affect the geotechnical measurements compared with the influence of thermal loading and high saline pore water after relatively short-term exposure. Thermal and corrosion exposure displayed no impact on the intrinsic swelling of the smectite component, indicating that no significant structural alteration had occurred. However, when exploring more complex saline solutions i.e., mixed Na, K and Ca, rather than the reference NaCl, divalent cation replacement was observed within the interlayer exchange site. This was accelerated in higher thermal loading conditions.
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