Abstract

The Boom Clay Formation of early Oligocene age, which occurs underground in northern Belgium, has been studied intensively for decades as a potential host rock for the disposal of nuclear waste. The goal of the present study is to determine a reference composition for the Boom Clay using both literature methods and methods developed during this work. The study was carried out on 20 samples, representative of the lithological variability of the formation. The bulk-rock composition was obtained by X-ray diffraction using a combined full-pattern summation and single-peak quantification method. Siliciclastics vary from 27 to 72 wt.%, clay minerals with 25–71 wt.% micas, 0–4 wt.% carbonates, 2–4 wt.% accessory minerals (mainly pyrite and anatase) and 0.5–3.5 wt.% organic matter. This bulk-rock composition was validated independently by major-element chemical analysis. The detailed composition of the clay-sized fraction was determined by modelling of the oriented X-ray diffraction patterns, using a larger sigma star (σ*) value for discrete smectite than for the other clay minerals. The <2 μm clay mineralogy of the Boom Clay is qualitatively homogeneous; it contains 14–25 wt.% illite, 19–39 wt.% smectite, 19–42 wt.% randomly interstratified illite-smectite with about 65% illite layers, 5–12 wt.% kaolinite, 4–17 wt.% randomly interstratified kaolinite-smectite and 2–7 wt.% chloritic minerals (chlorite, “defective” chlorite and interstratified chlorite-smectite). All modelled clay mineral proportions were verified independently using major-element chemistry and cation exchange capacity measurements. Bulk-rock and clay mineral analysis results were combined to obtain the overall detailed quantitative composition of the Boom Clay Formation.

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