Liquid water uptake in unconfined Callovo Oxfordian clay-rock studied with neutron and X-ray imaging

Eleni Stavropoulou, Edward Andò, Alessandro Tengattini, Matthieu Briffaut, Frédéric Dufour, Duncan Atkins, Gilles Armand

[ HAL | ActaGeoTech ]

The Callovo Oxfordian clay-rock (COx) is studied in France for the disposal of radioactive waste, because of its extremely low permeability. This host rock is governed by a hydromechanical coupling of high complexity. This paper presents an experimental study into the mechanisms of water uptake in small, unconfined, prismatic specimens of COx, motivated by the comprehension of cracking observed during concrete/COx interface sample preparation. Water uptake is monitored using both X-ray tomography and neutron radiography, the combination of these imaging techniques allowing material deformation and water arrival to be quantified, respectively. Given the speed of water entry and crack propagation, relatively fast imaging is required : 5-min X-ray tomographies and 10-s neutron radiographs are used. In this study, pairs of similar COx samples from the same core are tested separately with each imaging technique. Two different orientations with respect to the core are also investigated. Analysis of the resulting images yields with micro- and macro-scale insights into hydromechanical mechanisms to be obtained. This allows the cracking to be interpreted as a rapid breakdown in capillary suction (supposed large both to drying and rebound from in situ stress state) due to water arrival, which in turn causes a loss of effective stress, allowing cracks to propagate and deliver water further into the material.