BDA Webinar – July 2021 – Sealing Deep Site Investigation Boreholes: Radioactive Waste Management’s Field Demonstration Activities…

June 17, 2021

The next British Drilling Association (BDA) Webinar is planned for Wednesday 14th July 2021 at 1pm and will look at the interesting topic of “Sealing Deep Site Investigation Boreholes: Radioactive Waste Management’s Field Demonstration Activities”.

The webinar will be presented by Dr Simon Norris, Principal Research Manager, Radioactive Waste Management (RWM) and will discuss that, as the UK’s geological disposal programme progresses, it will be necessary to drill boreholes as part of site investigations, one of the key steps needed to identify whether the geology at a site could be suitable for an underground facility. Before site investigations can start, RWM, the organisation responsible for delivering a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF), needs to demonstrate its ability and knowhow to seal any boreholes to regulators at the Environment Agency.

RWM’s ‘Sealing Deep Site Investigation Boreholes’ project is part of the wide-ranging research and development programme that will support construction of a safe, secure GDF. To date, this £5 million project has involved RWM scientists, engineers and geologists working alongside contractors including Jacobs, Marriott Drilling and NeoProducts, to develop and test approaches to sealing boreholes. This has involved an extensive programme of work that commenced in 2013, including the design and build of a state-of-the-art ‘Downhole Placement System’ for placing seal material dry at appropriate depths. Bentonite clay is used as sealant because of its low permeability and swelling properties. Commonly found world-wide, bentonite will also be packed around some GDF waste packages as part of the engineered barrier system that will isolate and contain disposed waste.

RWM has completed an extensive laboratory programme as part of the project, and has recently commenced field demonstrations in existing, abandoned boreholes of suitable dimensions. Initial field work in Sweden was recently followed up by a full-scale demonstration at the Magnox Harwell site, Oxfordshire, which saw about a tonne of bentonite placed at a depth of about 300m in an abandoned borehole penetrating Jurassic clays, preceded by operations to mill out steel casing and under-ream, creating a suitable window. Further field demonstration activities are planned, considering the placing of seal material in a very deep borehole (2000m), to prove efficacy of equipment and to confirm bentonite behaviour and functionality. Work will also be undertaken to seal a borehole penetrating halite.

To request a link to attend the webinar, email –

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