Alteration of MX-80 bentonite backfill material by high-pH cementitious fluids under lithostatic conditions – an experimental approach using core infiltration techniques
F. Dolder, U. Mäder, A. Jenni, B. Münch, 2017. "Alteration of MX-80 bentonite backfill material by high-pH cementitious fluids under lithostatic conditions – an experimental approach using core infiltration techniques", Radioactive Waste Confinement: Clays in Natural and Engineered Barriers, S. Norris, J. Bruno, M. van Geet, E. Verhoef
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We characterize and quantify processes at a cement–bentonite interface spatially and temporally during a long-term core infiltration experiment.
A young ordinary Portland cement pore fluid (K+–Na+–OH−: pH 13.4) was infiltrated into a MX-80 bentonite core with an initial saturated density of 1920 kg m−3 that shifted to 1890–1930 kg m−3 after 761 days. A hydrostatic external pressure of 4.1 MPa and an infiltration pressure of 2.1 MPa were applied in a triaxial-type apparatus. A decrease in hydraulic conductivity from approximately 2.2×10−13 to approximately 4.2×10−15 m s−1 was observed passing from advection-dominated flow to a diffusion-dominated regime. Sulphate replaced chloride in the outflow during the high-pH infiltration period controlled by the dissolution of gypsum, the uptake of K+ by ion exchange, and complex mineral reactions occurred near the inlet. X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans performed repeatedly during the experiment tracked a progressing hemispherical reaction plume in the first millimetres of the bentonite, revealing a zone of bulk density increase. This zone consisted of two distinct, but overlapping, zones of Mg- and Ca-enrichment related to precipitation of saponite and calcite. The experiment attested an effective chemical buffering capacity for bentonite, a progressing coupled hydraulic–chemical sealing process and also the preservation of the physical integrity of the interface region in this set-up with a total pressure boundary condition on the core sample.