The host rock immediately surrounding a nuclear waste repository has the potential to undergo a complex set of physical and chemical processes starting from construction of the facility and continuing until many years after closure. Understanding the relevant processes of fracture evolution may be key to supporting the attendant safety arguments for such a facility. Experimental work has been examined wherein artificial fractures in novaculite and granite are subject to a mechanical confining pressure, variable fluid flows and different applied temperatures. This paper presents a synthesis of the work of seven separate research teams. A range of approaches are summarized including detailed thermal-hydrological-mechanical-chemical (THMC) models and homogenized ‘single compartment’ models of the fracture; the latter with a view to larger network or effective continuum models. The competing roles of aqueous geochemistry, pressure solution, stress corrosion and pure mechanics were found to be significant in the reproduction of the experimental observations. The results of the work show that while good, physically plausible representations of the experiment can be obtained, there is considerable uncertainty in the relative importance of the various processes, and that the parameterization of these processes can be closely linked to the physical interpretation of the fracture surface topography.

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