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Nature. 1986 Dec 11;324(6097):554-557. doi: 10.1038/324554a0.

Weakening of rock salt by water during long-term creep.


The rheological properties of rock salt are of fundamental importance in predicting the long-term evolution of salt-based radioactive waste repositories and strategic storage caverns, and in modelling the formation of salt diapirs and associated oil traps1,2. The short-term, high-stress rheology of rock salt is well known from laboratory experiments; however, extrapolation to appropriately low stresses fails to predict the rapid flow seen in certain natural structures. Furthermore, experiments have failed to reproduce the recrystallized microstructure of naturally deformed salt. Here we report experiments indicating that the above discrepancies can be explained by taking into account the influence of trace amounts of brine. Trace brine is always present in natural salt but sometimes escapes during experiments. Our tests on dry dilated salt show more or less conventional dislocation creep behaviour, but brine-bearing samples show marked weakening at low strain rates. This is associated with dynamic recrystallization and a change of deformation mechanism to solution transfer creep. Because natural rock salt always contains some brine, these results cast substantial doubt on the validity of presently accepted dislocation creep laws for predicting the long-term rheological behaviour of salt in nature.


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