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The Swedish concept for geological disposal of radioactive waste involves the use of bentonite as part of an engineered barrier system. A primary function of the bentonite is its ability to swell when hydrated by its surroundings. One particular uncertainty is the impact on this function, resulting from deviations in pore-water pressure, pw, from expected in situ hydrostatic conditions. We present results from a series of laboratory experiments designed to investigate the form of the relationship between swelling pressure and pw, for compacted Mx80 bentonite, from low to elevated applied water pressure conditions. The experiments were conducted using constant volume cells, designed to allow the total stresses acting on the surrounding vessel to be monitored (at five locations) during clay swelling. The results demonstrate that swelling pressure reduces non-linearly with increasing pw, becoming less sensitive to changes at elevated pressures. After cyclic loading a marked hysteresis was also observed, with swelling pressure remaining elevated after a subsequent reduction in applied water pressure. Such behaviour may impact the mechanical and transport properties of the bentonite and its resulting performance. However, such hysteric behaviour was not always observed. Further testing is required to better understand the causes of this phenomenon and the controls on such behaviour.

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