Development of a novel magnetic monitoring system for Engineered Barriers of Geological Disposal Facilities
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The UK Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommended, in 2006, that geological disposal coupled with safe and secure interim storage should have been the way forward for the long-term management of the UK’s higher activity wastes. The design of the underground repository contemplates the presence of bentonite plugs to seal access galleries and deposition boreholes and hence the interaction between the clay-based backfill material and the underground water. Remote monitoring of the fluid saturation of the barrier, the waste canisters and of the surrounding subsurface Geological Disposal Facility environment assumes a relevant importance to guarantee the safety of the repository and to increase the confidence and the reliance of the communities living in areas potentially affected by the repository over time. This remote monitoring of the Engineered Barrier System represents a technical challenge due to the unsuitability of some of the traditional geotechnical techniques or to the intrinsic unreliability of many geophysical prospecting techniques in providing information about the evolution of the Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical coupling of the system over long timescales up to and including post-closure evolution. In this project, I offer an initial approach to an innovative way of using mineral magnetism, and, in particular, I analyse the possible exploitation of corrosion-induced variations of the magnetic properties of several magnetic materials to monitor water saturation in the Engineered Barrier System and its evolution through time. Initially the reactivity of several natural and synthetic materials is tested under different “extreme” conditions to analyse the feasibility of the research concept and identify the materials more adapt to carry out the job. The effects that the corrosion of the magnetic materials has on the clay matrix is also analysed in detail throughout all the thesis work. The initial tests lead to the identification of specific transitions in the hysteretic behaviour of three of the initial candidates (Nd-Fe-B, AlNiCo and SmCo alloys). These three materials are subsequently tested under conditions closer to a real “evolved” Barrier System, where the groundwater interacts, with cementiferous grout producing hyperalkaline leachates. The final tests consider the temporal evolution (after 4, 8 and 12 months) of the magnetic properties of these materials in a dysoxic environment under imposed fluid-flow. The results show a clear change in the hysteretic properties of the three materials analysed and the feasibility of the monitoring of the Barrier fluid saturation in the short-term. Furthermore, the corrosion of the magnets, under the conditions applied, did not cause formation of non-swelling clays.