Two large-scale sealing tests conducted at Atomic Energy of Canada's underground research laboratory: the buffer-container experiment and the isothermal test
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Two large-scale sealing experiments were conducted at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited's Underground Research Laboratory at Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba. The rate of water uptake in densely compacted sand-clay buffer materials proposed for use in a deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel was monitored. The buffer-container experiment examined the influence of heat on the performance of a large mass of buffer. Temperatures, water contents, and total and hydraulic pressures within and surrounding the installation were monitored for approximately 2.5 years. Local groundwater pressures increased as a result of rising temperatures. Water uptake and redistribution occurred in the buffer due to drying shrinkage close to the heater and counter-acted swelling due to an increase in water content near the rock-buffer interface. The isothermal test (ITT) allowed natural groundwater uptake from the surrounding rock mass under isothermal conditions. It was monitored for a period of 6.5 years and is the first, and longest running test of its kind yet conducted in the world. During its operation, the ITT (for as yet unconfirmed reasons) experienced a 35% decrease in the rate of water supply relative to that measured prior to experiment installation. This decrease impacts on the time required for saturation to be achieved.