The basic concept of deep geological disposal of high-level radioactive waste is to isolate the waste from the human environment for the long term. Because the Japanese islands are located in a geologically active area, geological phenomena such as exhumation and fault activity must be considered by any safety assessment connected with deep geological disposal. The Tono Uranium Deposit, central Japan, has been affected by such geological phenomena during the interval since its formation, and so it is a suitable analogue for evaluating how this might be done.

The present natural analogue study of the Tono Uranium Deposit (Tono Natural Analogue Project) was started in 2001 with the main aim of studying a so-called ‘worst-case scenario’ for performance assessment (PA). The project involved characterizing the geology, hydrogeology, geochemistry and microbiology of the deposit and obtaining quantitative information about specific times in the past, as a means for developing, and building confidence in, conceptual and numerical models.

This project applied systems analysis, which has been widely undertaken in PAs of deep geological isolation. Systems analysis involves a systematic identification, classification and screening of features, events and process (FEPs) that occur or have occurred in and around the deposit. Based on the site data, important FEPs were identified.

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