Mont Terri rock laboratory, 20 years of research: introduction, site characteristics and overview of experiments

Paul Bossart, Frédéric Bernier, Jens Birkholzer, Christophe Bruggeman, Peter Connolly, Sarah Dewonck, Masaaki Fukaya, Martin Herfort, Mark Jensen, Jean-Michel Matray, Juan Carlos Mayor, Andreas Moeri, Takahiro Oyama, Kristof Schuster, Naokata Shigeta, Tim Victor, Klaus Wieczorek

    Research outputpeer-review


    Geologic repositories for radioactive waste are designed as multi-barrier disposal systems that perform a number of functions including the long-term isolation and containment of waste from the human environment, and the attenuation of radionuclides released to the subsurface. The rock laboratory at Mont Terri (canton Jura, Switzerland) in the Opalinus Clay plays an important role in the development of such repositories. The experimental results gained in the last 20 years are used to study the possible evolution of a repository and investigate processes closely related to the safety functions of a repository hosted in a clay rock. At the same time, these experiments have increased our general knowledge of the complex behaviour of argillaceous formations in response to coupled hydrological, mechanical, thermal, chemical, and biological processes. After presenting the geological setting in and around the Mont Terri rock laboratory and an overview of the mineralogy and key properties of the Opalinus Clay, we give a brief overview of the key experiments that are described in more detail in the following research papers to this Special Issue of the Swiss Journal of Geosciences. These experiments aim to characterise the Opalinus Clay and estimate safetyrelevant parameters, test procedures, and technologies for repository construction and waste emplacement. Other aspects covered are: bentonite buffer emplacement, highpH concrete-clay interaction experiments, anaerobic steel corrosion with hydrogen formation, depletion of hydrogen by microbial activity, and finally, release of radionuclides into the bentonite buffer and the Opalinus Clay barrier. In the case of a spent fuel/high-level waste repository, the time considered in performance assessment for repository evolution is generally 1 million years, starting with a transient phase over the first 10,000 years and followed by an equilibrium phase. Experiments dealing with initial conditions, construction, and waste emplacement do not require the extrapolation of their results over such long timescales. However, experiments like radionuclide transport in the clay barrier have to rely on understanding longterm mechanistic processes together with estimating safety-relevant parameters. The research at Mont Terri carried out in the last 20 years provides valuable information on repository evolution and strong arguments for a sound safety case for a repository in argillaceous formations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-22
    Number of pages20
    JournalSwiss Journal of Geosciences
    Issue numberS1
    StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017
    Event2017 - TM - 20th Anniversary Technical Meeting of the Mont-Terri-Rock-Laboratory - Porrentruy
    Duration: 10 Feb 201611 Feb 2017

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