Long-term performance of a geological disposal facility in response to permafrost and climatic variation

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Earth Sciences


The UK has a growing body of radioactive waste, and it is crucial that it is dealt with in a safe manner. A safety case must consider timescales up to a million years. Geological disposal has been accepted as the best available long-term approach to the safe disposal of higher activity radioactive waste. Argillaceous media are being considered by many countries as a potential host rock for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF); such media may also be used in the engineered barrier system. The evolution of our climate and how this could impact on an evolving GDF must be considered. Despite climate models showing an overall rise in global temperatures of at least 2 C as an immediate response to anthropogenic emissions of CO2, evidence from palaeoclimate studies leads to a prediction of future glacial periods affecting the UK on the 105+ year timescale. The potential effects of permafrost on components of a GDF in a UK context have not yet been fully researched.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/P510683/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1947426 Studentship EP/P510683/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021 Blaise Robertson Winnard
Description So far, direct permafrost effects that the UK could experience on a very long term basis (up to 1 million years) have not, when probed experimentally, significantly altered the mechanical properties of bentonite to serve in its function as an engineered barrier when potentially encasing high level radioactive waste in a geological setting.
Exploitation Route It may be useful in the future if a geological site for final high level radioactive waste disposal is decided on, and a concept can therefore start to be designed.
Sectors Construction,Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice