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Impacts of thermo-hydro-mechanical experiments on the microbial activity in compacted bentonite at the Kamaishi Mine, northeast Japan

Aoki, Kazuhiro ; Sugita, Yutaka ; Chijimatsu, Masakazu*; Tazaki, Kazue*

Microbial activity has been investigated for the bentonite buffer and surrounding host rock (granodiorite) at Kamaishi Mine in Iwate. For the host rock, total number of bacteria and viable microorganisms were enumerated for deep groundwater in granodiorite. Presence of sulphate-reducing bacteria and denitrifying bacteria were also confirmed. The coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical (T-H-M) experiments named" engineered barrier experiments" were carried out to examine the in situ performance of buffer material. At the end of the heating and cooling phases, bentonite samples were taken for microbial analysis to determine if the naturally present microbial population in the buffer material survived the conditions in a simulated vault environment. The results confirmed the existence of heterotrophs, which disappeared in bentonite samples with low water content. These results suggest that microbial activity is severely limited near waste container in the vault for some time after disposal, due to desiccation as a result of the heat output of the waste container. Such knowledge will be useful in assessing the potential effects of microbial activity on deep geological disposal of high level radioactive waste.

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