Deep geological Repositories 

Position Type: LURA, NSERC USRA

Position Title:  Research Assistant/summer researcher

Location:  Bergeron Centre for Engineering Excellence

Professor: Dr. Magdalena Krol

Department: Department of Civil Engineering

Contact for Professor:

# of positions available: 2

Project Description: 

Several countries, including Canada, Finland, Switzerland, and the United Sates are studying long- term solutions for the storage of used nuclear fuel. Current designs include the use of deep geological repositories (DGRs) that would be located several hundred meters below ground level. In general, DGR locations are chosen for their geologically stable conditions, as well as, their ability to minimize the transport of compounds in and out of the repository. Additionally, each used fuel canister (UFC) is usually surrounded with multiple engineered barriers, each playing a different role within the DGR. In Canada, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) is responsible for the design and implementation of the DGR. The current NWMO DGR design includes a steel container, that provides structural support against forces in the deep subsurface; a copper coating that acts as a corrosion barrier; and highly compacted bentonite (HCB) that surrounds the UFC. HCB swells upon contact with water and seal gaps within the repository. It also provides a moderately thermally conductive medium, slows groundwater infiltration, and can retard the movement of radionuclides in the event of a UFC breach. In addition, the HCB can suppress microbial activity within the near field region (i.e. at the container or within HCB) by restricting space and water availability to microbes that may be present. However, each barrier may be subject to different failure mechanisms and therefore predicting their respective behaviours over the lifetime of the DGR is necessary.

In this research project, the behavior of the HCB under several different repository conditions will be investigated using lab experiments in order to understand how the HCB will perform as a barrier against the transport of potentially corrosion-inducing compounds that may be produced remotely. When the repository is sealed, these compounds can diffuse through the HCB and lead to microbially influenced corrosion of the UFC. Therefore the objectives of this project are to: (1) understand how DGR conditions (including bentonite density, temperature, and groundwater concentration) can affect this transport; (2) incorporate these effects into a three-dimensional computer model.

Duties and Responsibilities of the student:

  • Perform literature search on bentonite properties
  • Aid in setting up and running experiments
  • Examine, analyze and visualize data to communicate findings

Skills and Qualifications:

  • Ability to conduct literature search and compile information from array of sources
  • Familiarity with lab environment is an asset
  • Strong communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills

Degrees, courses and Disciplines prerequisite*:  Open to students in Civil Engineering, specifically to those interested in environmental sustainability issues; Second year students or higher are preferred.

Stipend: TBD

Duration:  16 weeks minimum

Start Date:  05/01/2018 (estimated)

End Date:  08/31/2018 (estimated)

If you are interested in this research project, please contact Dr. Magdalena Krol at