Thermally Induced Rock Stress Increment and Rock Reinforcement Response

Matti Hakala, Jesse Ström, Guido Nuijten, Lauri Uotinen, Topias Siren, Johannes Suikkanen

Research output: Working paperProfessional


This report describes a detailed study of the effect of thermal heating by the spent nuclear fuel containers on the in situ rock stress, any potential rock failure, and associated rock reinforcement strategies for the Olkiluoto underground repository. The modelling approach and input data are presented together repository layout diagrams. The numerical codes used to establish the effects of heating on the in situ stress field are outlined, together with the rock mass parameters, in situ stress values, radiogenic temperatures and reinforcement structures. This is followed by a study of the temperature and stress evolution during the repository's operational period and the effect of the heating on the reinforcement structures.

It is found that, during excavation, the maximum principal stress is concentrated at the transition areas where the profile changes and that, due to the heating from the deposition of spent nuclear fuel, the maximum principal stress rises significantly in the tunnel arch area of NW/SW oriented central tunnels. However, it is predicted that the rock’s crack damage (CD, short term strength) value of 99 MPa will not be exceeded anywhere within the model. Loads onto the reinforcement structures will come from damaged and loosened rock which is assumed in the modelling as a free rock wedge—but this is very much a worst case scenario because there is no guarantee that rock cracking would form a free rock block.

The structural capacity of the reinforcement structures is described and it is predicted that the current quantity of the rock reinforcement is strong enough to provide a stable tunnel opening during the peak of the long term stress state, with damage predicted on the sprayed concrete liner. However, the long term stability and safety can be improved through the implementation of the principles of the Observational Method. The effect of ventilation is also considered and an additional study of the radiogenic heating effect on the brittle deformation zones is included.

The main conclusion is that, despite deep reaching damage potential, in all the load cases studied the currently designed and used reinforcement types and configurations (rock bolts, shotcrete) are capable of handling the dead weight of the damaged rock should this occur, with damage occurring on the shotcrete liner. The long term safety and stability of the repository during its lifetime can be guaranteed by perceiving the reinforcement strategy in two stages. Firstly, by installing the rock reinforcement to sustain the initial stresses and short term increases from the start of deposition with a monitoring programme in place. Secondly, by installing additional reinforcement, if found necessary through monitoring and observation of the underground facilities. In this way, the effect of any time dependent rock stress increase affecting the reinforcement structures can be observed, in addition to creep based damage, thus providing a better level of safety than a single stage design.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPosiva Oy
Number of pages72
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2014
MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study


  • Olkiluoto repository
  • radiogenic heating
  • rock reinforcement
  • rock damage modelling
  • design
  • monitoring


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