The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE), through coordination with the DOE Office of Environmental Management (DOE-EM), is beginning a brine migration test to better understand coupled processes at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). This test is a collaboration between scientists at Sandia, Los Alamos, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and is centered around brine migration in salt, under repository-relevant conditions.
Two parallel test arrays are being monitored (heated and unheated) in horizontal boreholes drilled from the WIPP repository horizon. These intervals will be monitoring the salt through sampling (liquid and cores), continuous underground analytical data (quadrupole mass and cavity ringdown spectrometry), and interrogation with various geophysical methods (electrical resistivity tomography, fiber-optic distributed temperature and strain sensing, and acoustic emissions). The test will provide data to elucidate the distribution and migration of each of the three types of water in geologic salt (intergranular, fluid inclusions, and hydrous minerals). The test aims to: 1) collect data for validating numerical models, especially in the area of coupled processes (thermal, hydrological, mechanical, and chemical); 2) provide a platform for international collaboration; and 3) get a new generation of earth and repository scientists underground and working to further the safety case for radioactive waste disposal in salt.