The radioactive decay heat from nuclear waste packages may, depending on the thermal load, create coupled thermal-mechanical-hydrological-chemical (TMHC) processes in the near-field environment of a repository. A group of tests on a large block (LBT) are planned to provide a timely opportunity to test and calibrate some of the TMHC model concepts. The LBT is advantageous for testing and verifying model concepts because the boundary conditions are controlled, and the block can be characterized before and after the experiment. A block of Topopah Spring tuff of about 3 × 3 × 4.5 m was sawed and isolated at Fran Ridge, Nevada Test Site. Small blocks of the rock adjacent to the large block were collected for laboratory testing of some individual thermal-mechanical, hydrological, and chemical processes. A constant load of about 4 MPa will be applied to the top and sides of the large block. The sides will be sealed with moisture and thermal barriers. The large block will be heated by heaters within and guard heaters on the sides so that a dry-out zone and a condensate zone will exist simultaneously. Temperature, moisture content, pore pressure, chemical composition, stress, and displacement will be measured throughout the block during the heating and cool-down phases. The results from the experiments on small blocks and the tests on the large block will provide a better understanding of some concepts of the coupled TMHC processes. The progress of the project is presented in this paper.
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Lin, W., Wilder, D.G., Blink, J.A. et al. A Large Block Heater Test for High Level Nuclear Waste Management. MRS Online Proceedings Library 353, 411–418 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1557/PROC-353-411