Main content area

Investigation into water retention and gas permeability of Opalinus clay

Liu, Jiang-feng, Wu, Yu, Cai, Cheng-Zheng, Ni, Hong-yang, Cao, Xu-lou, Pu, Hai, Song, Shuai-bing, Pu, Sheng-yan, Skoczylas, Frédéric
Environmental earth sciences 2018 v.77 no.5 pp. 213
argillite, bentonite, clay, permeability, radioactive waste, safety assessment, Belgium, France
Opalinus clay (OPA) is currently being investigated as a potential host rock for radioactive waste repository. The construction of this repository will lead to an excavation-damaged zone (EDZ) in the surrounding. Its sealing ability is crucial for the safety assessment of the geological repository. The sealing ability of OPA has a close relationship with its water retention and gas permeability behaviours. For this purpose, the water retention and gas permeability of OPA and its comparison with the artificial barrier (i.e. bentonite) were investigated in this study. The results show that OPA absorbed less water than granular bentonite material with equal suction. Compared with the other two similar materials (Boom clay and COx argillite), which were selected as natural engineering barriers for nuclear waste storage in Belgium and France, the suction behaviours of OPA are similar to those of COx argillite but notably different from those of Boom clay. The gas permeability tests show that OPA sample is quite sensitive to the changes in confining pressures but is less sensitive to applied gas pressures. Further, it is found that the OPA is more permeable than bentonite barrier after 10.5 years of hydration. Then, the OPA samples were artificially water-saturated. We find that the sealing ability can be recovered after long-time water saturation. However, when comparing with bentonite barrier, it is still a weak zone. This indicates that the EDZ should be paid more attention for the assessment the performance of the nuclear repository.