Identification of key thermal couplings affecting the bentonite behaviour in a deep geological nuclear waste repository

Abhishek Gupta*, Ayman A. Abed, Wojciech T. Solowski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


Deep geological nuclear waste repositories use the multi-layer Engineered Barrier System (EBS) to isolate nuclear waste from the environment. The key component of the barrier is densely compacted bentonite, closely resembling claystone. Therefore, to ensure safety, we need a numerical model for the bentonite and the barrier that predicts EBS behaviour during transient thermal, hydraulic, mechanical and chemical conditions. The paper identifies key mechanisms and processes affecting the bentonite in the barrier due to temperature changes (thermal couplings) based on advanced fully-coupled Finite Element Method simulations. The paper investigates 1) non-isothermal infiltration experiment on FEBEX bentonite (Villar and Gomez-Espina, 2009) and, 2) Centro de Investigaciones Energeticas Medioambientales y Tecnologicas (Ciemat) test (Martin et al., 2006), presenting 10 simulation configurations that are set up by inactivating one thermal coupling/variable at a time. The difference between these simulations and the baseline model results, examined in terms of the net mean stress (swelling pressure), suction and fluid flow, give insights into the significance of investigated coupling. Results suggest that thermal couplings related to vapour density, viscosity, water retention curve, and molecular diffusivity are among the most influential. The study additionally highlights the importance of water transport as liquid and gas, and water evaporation and condensation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107251
Number of pages22
JournalEngineering Geology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Bentonite
  • Claystone
  • Nuclear waste repository
  • Numerical modelling
  • Sensitivity
  • Suction
  • Swelling pressure
  • Thermal coupling
  • Thermo-hydro-mechanical coupling


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