The safe disposal of radioactive waste products remains a challenging and controversial issue, yet their burial in a stable geological environment is the option favoured by most countries. Past investigations of the Vaalputs facility in South Africa’s semi-arid Bushmanland Plateau demonstrated its suitability for the disposal of low-level, short-lived (<300 years) radioactive waste, but also the need for more data on hazardous seismotectonic and climatic processes for the potential storage of longer-lived spent nuclear fuel. We review and then provide new information on the regional geomorphological and morphotectonic features of the Bushmanland Plateau, focusing on pedogenic features and compressive shear fractures in the trenches excavated over the past two decades. The fractures, provisionally dated between ~75 ka and ~46 ka, resemble east-verging thrust faults of limited horizontal displacement (≤1 m) and die out at depths of 4 m. Having discounted a pedogenic origin, the shear fractures likely represent stress relief structures triggered by the seismogenic reactivation of one of the Quaternary active faults in the area. The most likely candidate is the Santab Fault Zone (SFZ), which has a strike length ≥20 km and a throw of up to ~5 m at its closest point (8 km) to the Vaalputs site. Regional remote sensing and off-site investigations in the Bushmanland Plateau relate the neotectonic episodes at Vaalputs and environs to a late Pleistocene climax of the Namaqualand seismic source zone. This zone is characterised by the Wegener Stress Anomaly, a long-lived ~northwest-southeast oriented compression that, at its apex in the Late Santonian, caused large scale folding and thrusting not only in Bushmanland and parts of central-southern Namibia, but also swept across the entire African plate.

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