Radioactivity and the Environment

Hydromechanical and biogeochemical processes in fractured rock masses in the vicinity of a geological disposal facility for radioactive waste – HydroFrame

HydroFrame logo

HydroFrame Overview for RATE Web Site

A consortium of three UK universities (Imperial College, University of Birmingham, University of Leeds), as well as collaborators from several institutions in the US and Europe, will build up expertise and capability in modelling hydro-mechanical and biogeochemical processes that may occur in fractured rock masses in the vicinity of a geological disposal facility for radioactive waste.

The project will bring together researchers with extensive experience in radioactive waste research, as well as others who will bring in key expertise and technologies that were developed in other fields, such as mining, petroleum engineering, geophysics, or biogeochemistry, but which are now needed to tackle the interdisciplinary problems involved in radioactive waste. The project will also benefit from interactions with leading researchers worldwide, as well as international facilities such as the underground research lab at Grimsel, Switzerland.

The envisaged outcomes include new and/or improved methodologies, codes and protocols for analysing various processes that occur during the lifetime of a repository, or during the site characterisation phase, that are sufficiently flexible and generic so as to be suitable for any geological formation that might be investigated as a potential location of a geological repository in the UK.

The project aims to link complementary work packages addressing the areas ‘Technological innovation for rock mass characterisation at a range of spatial scales’ and ‘Biogeochemical coupling, including deep multiphase transport processes’, that were prioritised in the RATE call. The project comprises:

  • Work Package 1 – development of improved methods for estimating the repository-scale hydraulic conductivity of a fractured rock mass, based on geologically realistic fracture network geometries;
  • Work Package 2 - exploration and evaluation of suitable seismic monitoring strategies, and development of data processing techniques, for the characterisation of potential repository sites;
  • Work Package 3 – examination of the key seismic attributes for identifying fracture properties (e.g., fracture density, orientation and stiffness) that play a critical role in repository performance;
  • Work Package 4 – development of coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical models for the behaviour of fractured rock masses;
  • Work Package 5 – modelling of colloid and tracer transport experiments that have been conducted at the Grimsel test site in Switzerland;
  • Work Package 6 – testing of the importance of biogeochemical processes involving microbes and natural organic matter on actinide mobility in the near-field environment of a radioactive waste repository.

Research consortia and collaborators

Further information on PhDs and PDRAs

PhD research

Post-doctoral research


UK Partners

Imperial College logo
University of Birmingham logo
University of Leeds logo
Natural History Museum logo

International Partners


Lawrence Berkeley National Labratory logo
Nagra Grimsel Laboratory – Switzerland
Stanford University logo