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In a Swedish repository for the disposal of heat-emitting waste, the long-term thermal stability of the bentonite engineered barrier forms a key component of the safety case. Central to such consideration is the evolution of hydraulic permeability and a potential degradation of hydraulic properties, in response to prolonged thermal exposure of the clay. To address this issue, a detailed programme of laboratory-based experiments has been undertaken at both the British Geological Survey and Studiecentrum voor Kernenergie/Centre d’Etude de L’Energie Nucleaire, in order to examine the hydraulic behaviour of bentonite that had previously been exposed to elevated temperatures. Hydraulic properties were calculated from both steady-state pressure gradients and from analysis of the pressure transients. Inspection of the data found no significant difference in hydraulic behaviour between the virgin material and clay samples taken from the Canister Retrieval Test. Based on these observations, the authors find no evidence for an adverse increase in hydraulic conductivity of bentonite as a result of prolonged thermal exposure to temperatures of 80 °C.

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