Anisotropic diffusion at the field scale in a 4-year multi-tracer diffusion and retention experiment – I: Insights from the experimental data

Gimmi, Thomas; Leupin, Olivier X.; Eikenberg, Jost; Glaus, Martin A.; Van Loon, Luc R.; Waber, Niklaus H.; Wersin, Paul; Wang, Hao A.O.; Grolimund, Daniel; Borca, Camelia N.; Dewonck, Sarah; Wittebroodt, Charles (2014). Anisotropic diffusion at the field scale in a 4-year multi-tracer diffusion and retention experiment – I: Insights from the experimental data. Geochimica et cosmochimica acta, 125(125), pp. 373-393. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.gca.2013.10.014

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Abstract Claystones are considered worldwide as barrier materials for nuclear waste repositories. In the Mont Terri underground research laboratory (URL), a nearly 4-year diffusion and retention (DR) experiment has been performed in Opalinus Clay. It aimed at (1) obtaining data at larger space and time scales than in laboratory experiments and (2) under relevant in situ conditions with respect to pore water chemistry and mechanical stress, (3) quantifying the anisotropy of in situ diffusion, and (4) exploring possible effects of a borehole-disturbed zone. The experiment included two tracer injection intervals in a borehole perpendicular to bedding, through which traced artificial pore water (APW) was circulated, and a pressure monitoring interval. The APW was spiked with neutral tracers (HTO, HDO, H2O-18), anions (Br, I, SeO4), and cations (Na-22, Ba-133, Sr-85, Cs-137, Co-60, Eu-152, stable Cs, and stable Eu). Most tracers were added at the beginning, some were added at a later stage. The hydraulic pressure in the injection intervals was adjusted according to the measured value in the pressure monitoring interval to ensure transport by diffusion only. Concentration time-series in the APW within the borehole intervals were obtained, as well as 2D concentration distributions in the rock at the end of the experiment after overcoring and subsampling which resulted in �250 samples and �1300 analyses. As expected, HTO diffused the furthest into the rock, followed by the anions (Br, I, SeO4) and by the cationic sorbing tracers (Na-22, Ba-133, Cs, Cs-137, Co-60, Eu-152). The diffusion of SeO4 was slower than that of Br or I, approximately proportional to the ratio of their diffusion coefficients in water. Ba-133 diffused only into �0.1 m during the �4 a. Stable Cs, added at a higher concentration than Cs-137, diffused further into the rock than Cs-137, consistent with a non-linear sorption behavior. The rock properties (e.g., water contents) were rather homogeneous at the centimeter scale, with no evidence of a borehole-disturbed zone. In situ anisotropy ratios for diffusion, derived for the first time directly from field data, are larger for HTO and Na-22 (�5) than for anions (�3�4 for Br and I). The lower ionic strength of the pore water at this location (�0.22 M) as compared to locations of earlier experiments in the Mont Terri URL (�0.39 M) had no notable effect on the anion accessible pore fraction for Cl, Br, and I: the value of 0.55 is within the range of earlier data. Detailed transport simulations involving different codes will be presented in a companion paper.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences > Applied Rock-Water-Interaction

UniBE Contributor:

Gimmi, Thomas, Waber, Niklaus, Wersin, Paul


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology




Elsevier Science




Thomas Gimmi

Date Deposited:

11 Sep 2014 13:21

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:31

Publisher DOI:





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