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MIND Report Summary

Project ID: 661880

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MIND (Development of the safety case knowledge base about the influence of microbial processes on geological disposal of radioactive wastes)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

The MIND Project is a multidisciplinary project that addresses key technical issues that should be tackled to support the implementation of planned geological disposal projects for higher-level radioactive wastes across the EU. Our current understanding of the impact of microbial metabolism on the safety of geological repositories remains tenuous, even though microorganisms may have controlling influences on waste form evolution in situ, multibarrier integrity and ultimately radionuclide migration from the repository. This project targets a number of “high urgency” and “high importance” topics identified in the most recent IGD-TP Strategic Research Agenda, focusing specifically on the influence of microbial processes on waste forms and their behaviour, and the technical feasibility and long-term performance of repository components. The project brings together, for the first time, 15 European groups working on the impact of microbial processes on safety cases for geological repositories across the EU, focusing on key questions posed by waste management organisations. The emphasis is on quantifying specific measureable impacts of microbial activity on safety cases under repository-relevant conditions, thus altering the current view of microbes in repositories and leading to significant refinements of safety case models currently being implemented to evaluate the long-term evolution of radwaste repositories. The integration of society and policy oriented studies in the project will also extend the impact of the project outside the scientific and technical domain, while a study of expert conceptualization, public perception and risk communication concerning microbial influences in geological disposal, will improve awareness of microbial issues on a broader level. The programme will help the EU claim international leadership in the understanding of the impact of microbial processes on geodisposal, and indeed other technological areas pertinent to the exploitation of the subsurface.
The objectives have been developed with consultation of waste management organizations (WMOs) and are thus targeted at specific remaining issues concerning geological disposal of intermediate and high level radioactive wastes. The objectives are defined by a prioritized top down approach rather than a bottom up approach driven by scientific curiosity. As such, the proposed research does not intend to carry out a complete assessment of the potential impact of microbiology on geological disposal. Rather, it is intended to contribute to a more complete and realistic safety case and to communicate the effects that microbiological processes will have on the geological disposal of intermediate and high level radioactive wastes.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project Kick-off was held in Brussels, September 2 2015.
The first Project Annual Meeting (PAM1) was held in Granada May 2-4 2016.
Long-term experiments have been initiated in the two experimental workpackages.

Summary of accomplishments by WP1 (Intermediate level waste disposal)
Lead: NNL
There have been several exchange visits of PhD students between partners within WP1. Presentations of first results of irradiation and biodegradation studies of polymers, ion exchange resins and cellulose together with work on radionuclide interactions were done at the first Project Annual Meeting (PAM) in Granada further DNA sequencing analyses and laboratory culture experiments have been performed. Further irradiation studies of ion exchange resins have been undertaken in the Czech Republic. Resins have also been irradiated by the CEA (France) for EPFL using a linear electron accelerator to study effects at lower dose. A first journal publication from MIND WP1 concerning genome sequencing of an isolate from the Harpur Hill site has been accepted and another paper has been submitted.
Results from in situ experiments regarding microbiological metabolism under repository conditions were generated from the H2 injection experiment at the Mont Terri rock laboratory and an overview of microbiological data from the gas generation experiment (GGE), Olkiluoto were presented at PAM1. A paper presenting new experimental data and modelling of the GGE is close to submission.
Good progress has been made with writing an object oriented Application Programming Interface (API) in C++ of the subroutines that model microbial growth and the reaction of electron donor and acceptor species in the existing GRM FORTRAN code.

Summary of accomplishments by WP2 (High level waste and spent fuel geological disposal
Lead: Micans
In order to study microbial production of sulphide in the geosphere sampling of gases has been performed as hydrogen gas and methane are of particular importance. Cell count and ATP analyses have also been performed.
In situ experiments on microbially induced corrosion of canisters are being prepared by NERC and EPFL. An experimental rig has been constructed and is undergoing leak testing which will be completed in time for the experimental programme to start as planned early in 2017. An experimental borehole has been drilled at Mont Terri and a PhD student has been hired. Laboratory experiments have been completed.
FEBEX clay from the long-term FEBEX in situ experiment is used to study microbial activity in bentonite. Preliminary results show that there are still viable microbes after 18 years in the clay. Recent attempts to extract DNA from the FEBEX core samples have proved successful, and the extracted DNA has now been sequenced using an Illumina platform and the data analysed.

Summary of accomplishments by WP3 (Integration)
An overview of the molecular pipelines used by the MIND partners has been compiled and was made available through Syncplicity, in November 2015, and will be updated regularly.
Micans arranged a round table discussion on molecular tools and working with clays on the PAM1 2016.
A synthesis of the first year progress using the reports by partners was compiled. A number of lectures have been given to both specialists and non-specialists in the field during the year. An education and training packaged have been produced.

Summary of the accomplishments of WP4 (Project management)
Lead: SKB
The project has been set up for internal communication at the platform Syncplicity. Follow up meetings with all WP-leaders are held on a regularly. Minutes from the meetings are stored on Syncplicity and internally in SKB (SKBDoc). A webpage open for all has been established. The Implementers’ review board has been formed and a chairperson has been appointed. A logo, templates for quarterly reports, deliverables, presentations, newsletters and circulars have been created and are available to all project members on Syncplicity,

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The MIND project will contribute to a critical refinement of our understanding of the behaviour of organic containing long-lived intermediate level radioactive waste (ILW) and the performance of canisters, buffers, seals and plugs of high level radioactive waste (HLW), in the light of potential microbial processes acting on both systems.
The integration of society and policy oriented studies in the project will extend the impact of the project outside the clearly defined scientific and technical domain.

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