Thermo-Hydrological-Mechanical Analysis of a Clay Barrier for Radioactive Waste Isolation: Probabilistic Calibration and Advanced Modeling
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The engineered barrier system is a basic element in the design of repository to isolate high level radioactive waste (HLW). In this system, the clay barrier plays a prominent role in dispersing the heat generated from the waste, reduce the flow of pore water from the host rock, and maintaining the structural stability of the waste canister. The compacted expansive clay (generally bentonite blocks) is initially in unsaturated state. During the life time of the repository, the barrier will undergo different coupled thermal, hydrological and mechanical (THM) phenomena due to heating (from the heat-emitting nuclear waste) and hydration (from the saturated host rock). The design of nuclear waste disposal requires the prediction of the long term barrier behavior (i.e. hundred or thousand years), so numerical modeling is a basic component of the repository design. The numerical analyses are performed using mathematical THM formulation and the associated numerical code. Constitutive models are an essential part of the numerical simulations. Those constitutive models represent the intrinsic behavior of the material for the individual physical phenomenon (i.e. thermal, hydraulic and mechanical). Deterministic analyses have shown the potential of such mathematical formulations to describe the physical behavior of the engineered barrier system. However, the effect of the inherent uncertainties associated with the different constitutive models on the global behavior of the isolation system has not been explored yet. The first part of this thesis is related to application of recent probabilistic methods to understand and assess the impact of uncertainties on the global THM model response. Experimental data associated with the FEBEX project has been adopted for the case study presented in this thesis. CODE_BRIGHT, a fully coupled THM finite element program, is used to perform the numerical THM analysis. The second part of this thesis focuses on the complex mechanical behavior observed in a barrier material subjected (during 5 years) to heating and hydration under actual repository conditions The studied experiment is the (ongoing) full scale in-situ FEBEX test at Grimsel test site, Switzerland. A partial dismantling of this experiment has allowed the inspection of the barrier material subjected to varying stresses due to hydration and heating. The clay underwent both elastic and plastic volumetric deformations at different suction and temperature levels with changes in the pre-consolidation pressure and voids ratio that are difficult to explain with conventional models. In this thesis a double structure elasto plastic model is proposed to study the mechanical behavior of this barrier material. The numerical modeling was performed with CODE_BRIGHT. The study shows that the double structure model explains satisfactorily the observed changes in the mechanical behavior of the clay material.
Markov Chain Monte Carlo
Micro, macro and their interaction
Dontha, Lakshman (2012). Thermo-Hydrological-Mechanical Analysis of a Clay Barrier for Radioactive Waste Isolation: Probabilistic Calibration and Advanced Modeling. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from