Geoelectrical monitoring of simulated subsurface leakage to support high-hazard nuclear decommissioning at the Sellafield Site, UK

Oliver Kuras, Paul B. Wilkinson, Philip I. Meldrum, Lucy S. Oxby, Sebastian Uhlemann, Jonathan E. Chambers, Andrew Binley, James Graham, Nicholas Smith, Nick Atherton

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    A full-scale field experiment applying 4D (3D time-lapse) cross-borehole Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) to the monitoring of simulated subsurface leakage was undertaken at a legacy nuclear waste silo at the Sellafield Site, UK. The experiment constituted the first application of geoelectrical monitoring in support of decommissioning work at a UK nuclear licensed site. Images of resistivity changes occurring since a baseline date prior to the simulated leaks revealed likely preferential pathways of silo liquor simulant flow in the vadose zone and upper groundwater system. Geophysical evidence was found to be compatible with historic contamination detected in permeable facies in sediment cores retrieved from the ERT boreholes. Results indicate that laterally discontinuous till units forming localized hydraulic barriers substantially affect flow patterns and contaminant transport in the shallow subsurface at Sellafield. We conclude that only geophysical imaging of the kind presented here has the potential to provide the detailed spatial and temporal information at the (sub-)meter scale needed to reduce the uncertainty in models of subsurface processes at nuclear sites.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)350-359
    Number of pages10
    JournalScience of the Total Environment
    Volume566-567
    Early online date23 May 2016
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

    Keywords

    • Contaminant transport
    • Electrical resistivity tomography
    • Geophysics

    Fingerprint

    Dive into the research topics of 'Geoelectrical monitoring of simulated subsurface leakage to support high-hazard nuclear decommissioning at the Sellafield Site, UK'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this