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Deep geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in a repository with a system of engineered and natural barriers has been recognized as an appropriate disposal concept by Chinese authorities since 2003, and both crystalline rocks and argillaceous rocks are considered as the candidate host rocks for HLW disposal repository. The 1:200 000 regional survey indicated that there are potential clay formations in Mesozoic–Cenozoic sedimentary basins in NW China. Five candidate areas have been suggested with potential clay formations including the Tamusu and Suhongtu areas with upper K1 Bayingebi clay formations in the east Bayingebi Basin, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. On the basis of a detailed ground geological, hydrological and geophysical surveys, two test boreholes drilled to a depth of 800 m in the Tamusu area revealed that there are three lacustrine-facies clay formations (K1b2-3, K1b2-2 and K1b2-1). The thickness of the K1b2-3 and K1b2-2 clay formations is about 300–600 m with sandstone and siltstone interbeds, while the thickness of the K1b2-1 homogeneous clay formation is more than 200 m with the depth of 450 m below the surface. The spatial extension of the clay formations could meet the fundamental criteria to ensure the long-term safety of the repository. Initial mineralogical studies on core samples indicated that the mineral assemblage is dominated by analcite, kaolinite, illite and dolomite. The homogeneous argillaceous rocks rich in analcite in Tamusu area could be a new type of host rock for a HLW disposal repository.

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