Understanding the near-field evolution of a deep geological disposal system for HLW is crucial for assessing its long term performance and, therefore, safety. For that reason ENRESA devised the FEBEX Project, a Full Scale Engineered Barriers Experiment in crystalline rock. The project consists of a full-scale “in-situ” heating test, a large-scale laboratory mock-up and supporting materials tests, and modelling.
Even though the object of the project is to contribute to the search for methods of behaviour and of safety analyses for a repository, other subinvestigations have been/are being included. The stated objectives are to demonstrate the procedures of constructing an engineered barrier system (EBS), especially the fabrication, handling, and installation of bentonite blocks (buffer) at an almost industrial scale, to improve and validate the numerical models for thermo-hydro-mechanical behaviour, and to investigate the geochemical processes that are produced in the buffer including canister corrosion, as well as the generation and transport of gas. Since early 1997, with the commencement of the heating phase, both large-scale tests have been fully operative. At this point it can be said that the demonstration objective of constructing the EBS has been successfully achieved. The measured thermal response of the buffer follows the pattern predicted in the preliminary modelling. The saturation rate of the buffer and associated mechanical processes are being continuously monitored.