Coupled Heat and Moisture Transport Simulation on the Re-saturation of Engineered Clay Barrier

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Wei-Hsing Huang, NCU National Central University of Taiwan, Jhongli, Taiwan and Yi-Fang Chuang, INER Institute of Nuclear Energy Research, Chemical Engineering, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Engineered clay barrier plays a major role for the isolation of radioactive wastes in a underground repository. This paper investigates the resaturation processes of clay barrier, with emphasis on the coupling effects of heat and moisture during the intrusion of groundwater to the repository. A reference bentonite and a locally available clay were adopted in the laboratory program. Soil suction of clay specimens was measured by psychrometers embedded in clay specimens and by vapor equilibrium technique conducted at varying temperatures so as to determine the soil water characteristic curves of the two clays at different temperatures. And water uptake tests were conducted on clay specimens compacted at various densities to simulate the intrusion of groundwater into the clay barrier. Using the soil water characteristic curve, an integration scheme was introduced to estimate the hydraulic conductivity of unsaturated clay. It was found that soil suction decreases as temperature increases, resulting in a reduction in water retention capability. The finite element method was then employed to carry out the numerical simulation of the saturation process in the near field of a repository. Results of the numerical simulation were validated using the degree of saturation profile obtained from the water uptake tests on the clays. The numerical scheme was then extended to establish a model simulating the resaturation process after the closure of a repository. Finally, the model was then used to evaluate the effect of clay barrier thickness on the time required for groundwater to penetrate the clay barrier and approach saturation. Due to the variation in clay suction and thermal conductivity with temperature of clay barrier material, the calculated temperature field shows a reduction as a result of incorporating the hydro-properties in the calculations.