Experimental simulation of boundary condition effects on bentonite swelling in HLW repositories

  • Chao-Sheng TangEmail author
  • Sheng-Jie Li
  • Dong-Wei Wang
  • Zhi-Guo Chen
  • Bin Shi
  • Hilary Inyang
Original Article


On the basis of textural and hydro-mechanical characteristics, bentonite has been proven to be an effective buffer/backfill material for long-term containment of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in deep geological repositories. Herein, the results of experiments performed to investigate the swelling equilibrium limit (SEL) of bentonite under various boundary conditions are presented. A special apparatus was employed to simulate various stress–strain boundary conditions, including constant volume (CV), constant vertical stress (CVS), and constant stiffness (CS). Bentonite samples were prepared with various initial dry densities ranging from 1.5 to 1.7 g/cm3 and vertically stressed to different levels. During wetting, they were subjected to different boundary conditions before the swelling strain or swelling pressure reached equilibrium. Test results indicate that stress–strain boundary conditions have significant effects on the measured swelling strain and swelling pressure of the tested bentonite. More specifically, the relationship between the sequence of swelling pressure under different boundary conditions is CV > CS > CVS, while the relationship between the sequence of swelling strain is CVS > CS > CV. In addition, the characteristics of SEL curves are governed by the initial dry density and vertical stress with the effect of dry density being more significant. Based on these results, several SEL curves were developed to index the effects of boundary conditions on swelling potential of bentonite. They can be used to evaluate the final stress and volume states of bentonite during fluid infiltration under the range of boundary conditions possible in HLW repositories.


GMZ bentonite Stress–strain boundary condition Swelling equilibrium limit Swelling behavior Radioactive waste disposal Dry density 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 41572246, 41772280), Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (Grant nos. BK20171228, BK20170394), National Science Foundation of China for Excellent Young Scholars (Grant no. 41322019), Key Project of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41230636), and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth Sciences and EngineeringNanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Global Education and Infrastructure Services Inc.CharlotteUSA
  3. 3.Global Education and Infrastructure Services Inc.AbujaNigeria

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