The alteration and transformation behaviour of the Tertiary Hammerschmiede Smectite and the Jurassic Opalinus Shale in an alkaline solution was studied in column experiments. The Hammerschmiede Smectite is proposed as potential backfill material and the Opalinus Shale as host rock for the Swiss low-level nuclear waste storage site. Over a period of 18 months, the evolution of permeability, pH and solution concentrations were measured. After the experiment, the columns were cut into pieces to study the mineralogical and the chemical evolution of the clays. X-ray diffraction (XRD) revealed no significant appearance or disappearance of diffraction peaks at the end of the experiments. The scanning electron micrographs of the clays revealed that both clays exhibited a precipitation zone, which extends from 0 to 2 cm below the infiltration surface. Both clays showed significant differences in the evolution of pH and hydraulic conductivity. The solution front crossed the Opalinus Shale column entirely after only 11 weeks and the initial values for K+ and Na+ were conserved in the solution. For both clays, the salt concentrations in the percolating fluids mirror the evolution of pH.

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