In June 2008 the UK government published a ‘White Paper’ as part of the “Managing Radioactive Waste Safety” (MRWS) programme to provide a framework for managing higher activity radioactive wastes in the long-term through geological disposal. The White Paper identifies that there are benefits to disposing all of the UK’s higher activity wastes (Low and Intermediate Level Waste (LLW and ILW), High Level Waste (HLW), Spent Fuel (SF), Uranium (U) and Plutonium (Pu)) at the same site, and this is currently the preferred option. It also notes that research will be required to support the detailed design and safety assessment in relation to any potentially detrimental interactions between the different modules. Different disposal system designs and associated Engineered Barrier Systems (EBS) will be required for these different waste types, i.e. ILW/LLW and HLW/SF. If declared as waste U would be disposed as ILW and Pu as HLW/SF. The Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) would therefore comprise two co-located modules (respectively for ILW/LLW and HLW/SF). A study has recently been undertaken by NDA RWMD to identify the key Thermo-Hydro-Mechanical-Chemical (THMC) interactions which might occur during both the operational and post-closure phases in order to assess the potential implications of co-location in a range of host rocks. This paper presents supporting modelling work used to help understand the potential interactions between the modules. A multi-phase flow and coupled gas generation model was used to help investigate the potential groundwater and gas fluxes between the modules, in particular considering the operational phase and resaturation behaviour of the different modules. These early phases are important because gas generation rates and hydraulic gradients will be at their maximum, and the pressure gradients associated with GDF operations will, at least initially, dominate over the background hydraulic gradient. The gas generation and multi-phase flow study considered a mudstone host rock in which gas pressurisation might significantly influence resaturation behaviour, or drive water from one module to the other. The results of the multiphase flow modelling show that although gas generation affects pressure recovery in the ILW/LLW module, the smaller size of the HLW/SF excavations compared with the ILW/LLW excavations, and the operational timings, mean that in general the groundwater pressure gradient in the GDF is from the HLW/SF module (higher pressure) to the ILW module (lower pressure). Transport of solutes from the HLW/SF module towards the ILW module is not expected to result in any deleterious interactions, indicating that hydraulic interactions during the resaturation period are unlikely to pose a fundamental barrier to co-location.

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