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Hydraulic properties of the Borrowdale Volcanic Group of rocks

Nirex has investigated the suitability, or otherwise, of the hard, fractured Borrowdale Volcanic Group of rocks at a site near Sellafield, Cumbria, UK as a potential host for a deep repository for the disposal of solid intermediate-level and certain low-level radioactive waste. This allowed an integrated experimental programme of hydrogeological and geophysical testing of the rocks from a number of boreholes previously drilled as part of the investigations.

Investigations at a potential repository site are usually concerned with, amongst other things, the acquisition and interpretation of hydrogeological data and the use of these data in modelling groundwater flow. An extensive programme of short interval hydraulic testing clearing demonstrated that significant groundwater flow into the borehole only took place through a limited number of flowing zones. Using information from rock cores and geophysical logging of boreholes, the orientations, spacings and length scales of the open fractures were measured. These data were used in NAPSAC, a stochastic fracture network computer program, to predict the effective hydraulic properties of Borrowdale Volcanic Group rocks over length scales of several tens of metres. It was concluded that the magnitude of the flow will mainly depend on the hydraulic properties of the flowing zones and the way they are connected together.

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