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Applied Geochemistry (2012)
Stages of evolution of a Toarcian compacted claystone around galleries excavated between 1 and 124 years ago by the study of noble gases dissolved in pore water at the Tournemire Underground Research Laboratory (France)
Bernard Lavielle1, Jean-Michel Matray2, Bertrand Thomas1, Alexandre Dauzères2, Fethi Bensenouci2, Eric Gilabert1

The purpose of this work is to study the diffusion properties in an argillaceous formation and how these properties change after the excavation of galleries, over a long period. The Tournemire Underground Research Laboratory (URL) located in Aveyron (France) offers the unique opportunity to investigate different stages of the evolution of the so-called Excavation Damaged Zone (EDZ) over a period of about 124 a. Four horizontal boreholes parallel to the bedding and one vertical borehole were drilled in order to study diffusion transport in the EDZ in both directions in galleries excavated 124, 13, 6, and 1 a ago, respectively. Noble gases dissolved in the pore water of 47 core samples were extracted in order to establish precise depth profiles. Mainly produced in situ by decay of U and Th, radiogenic He accumulates in the pore water of rocks and escapes toward the gallery, allowing a characterization of the diffusive transport in the EDZ and its evolution with time. For the oldest gallery (1882-1888), core mapping reveals an EDZ well developed with fractures up to a depth of 1.8 m. In this zone, all radiogenic He has been lost and at the same time heavy noble gases are trapped in the rock with an enrichment of Xe relative to Kr and of Kr relative to Ar. From 1.8 m, He concentration increases with depth to reach a plateau at about 3.5 m corresponding to a concentration normally found in the unaltered zone. Considering diffusive transport of the radiogenic He to the EDZ, model calculations allowed proposing transport properties in the unfractured and undisturbed zone (UZ) with a pore diffusion coefficient Dp of 1 × 10−10 m2/s deduced from the best-fit curve to experimental data and a mean porosity of 0.1 obtained form petrophysical measurements. The most recent gallery (2008) did not show any evidence of EDZ at depths greater than 7.5 cm. A fracture located around 0.75 m, possibly of tectonic origin, induced large advection and diffusion losses of He on both sides in the next 50 cm. Excesses of Ar, Kr and Xe are found, suggesting diffusion of air from the gallery associated with He losses. The 6-a-old gallery is clearly influenced by fractures of tectonic origin increasing the EDZ thickness of 0.7 m up to a Damaged Zone of 1.8 m. Based on the He concentration profile, the 13-a-old gallery (1996) has a net EDZ of 1.2 m, larger than the 0.7 m deduced from the structural analysis by core mapping, followed by a disturbed zone of up to 3.5 m that could represent an intermediate stage before the development of fractures in the EDZ. The vertical borehole drilled in the same gallery shows a less extensive damaged zone (1.4 m) and allows the determination of a Dp of 3 × 10−11 m2/s taking into account the anisotropy relative to the stratification plane. The rare gas analysis has, therefore, enabled confirmation and better description of the net time-dependent evolution of the EDZ around drifts in the argillaceous Tournemire site: no obvious EDZ for the 1-a gallery (2008), 1.2 m width for the 13-a-old gallery (1996), and 2 m width for the century-old tunnel. The occurrence of a disturbed and unfractured zone (dZ) around the 13-a-old gallery undetected by structural studies and geophysical methods clearly demonstrates the power of radiogenic He in assessing the transport properties around drifts excavated at different ages in compacted clay rocks.
1 :  CENBG - Centre d'Etudes Nucléaires de Bordeaux Gradignan
2 :  IRSN - Institut de radioprotection et de sûreté nucléaire
Planète et Univers/Sciences de la Terre/Géochimie

Sciences de l'environnement/Milieux et Changements globaux