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Sci Total Environ. 2016 Nov 15;571:507-21. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.07.018. Epub 2016 Jul 22.

Tectonic and climatic considerations for deep geological disposal of radioactive waste: A UK perspective.

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British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK. Electronic address:
British Geological Survey, Tongwynlais, CF15 7NE, UK.
British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG, UK.
Radioactive Waste Management Limited, B587, Curie Avenue, Harwell, Didcot OX11 0RH, UK.


Identifying and evaluating the factors that might impact on the long-term integrity of a deep Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) and its surrounding geological and surface environment is central to developing a safety case for underground disposal of radioactive waste. The geological environment should be relatively stable and its behaviour adequately predictable so that scientifically sound evaluations of the long-term radiological safety of a GDF can be made. In considering this, it is necessary to take into account natural processes that could affect a GDF or modify its geological environment up to 1millionyears into the future. Key processes considered in this paper include those which result from plate tectonics, such as seismicity and volcanism, as well as climate-related processes, such as erosion, uplift and the effects of glaciation. Understanding the inherent variability of process rates, critical thresholds and likely potential influence of unpredictable perturbations represent significant challenges to predicting the natural environment. From a plate-tectonic perspective, a one million year time frame represents a very short segment of geological time and is largely below the current resolution of observation of past processes. Similarly, predicting climate system evolution on such time-scales, particularly beyond 200ka AP is highly uncertain, relying on estimating the extremes within which climate and related processes may vary with reasonable confidence. The paper highlights some of the challenges facing a deep geological disposal program in the UK to review understanding of the natural changes that may affect siting and design of a GDF.


Climate change; Earth processes; Geological disposal; Permafrost; Radioactive waste

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