Deep geological repository development to be strengthened with Horonobe International Project

Horonobe International Project Management Board Meeting

The Management Board for the Horonobe International Joint Project convened for their first meeting in April at the Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris.

With the scientific consensus that deep geological repositories (DGRs) are a safe and effective approach to permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, the development and security of deep geological repositories is a pivotal area of work for the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

Established in February 2023, the Horonobe International Joint Project (HIP) is a collaborative project between the NEA and Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to promote research and development for repository and realistic safety assessments. It also aims to help train the next generation of engineers and researchers by through knowledge sharing and practical experience.

The project, made up of members from 8 countries, allows for the utilisation of JAEA’s Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory to maximise the results of research and development related to advanced safety assessment and engineering technology in Japan as well as the other 7 participating countries.

The HIP Management Board held its first meeting on 11-12 April 2023 in Paris, which convened Board members from 11 organisations. The objective of the meeting was to determine the scope of work for the planned project activities throughout the year.

During the inaugural meeting, the Board discussed the three main pillars of the joint project:

  • Solute transport experiment with model testing: to assess the predicting capabilities of 3D solute transport models through on-site experiments to develop more realistic 3D solute transport models that can be applied to repository safety assessments for fractured porous sedimentary rocks.
  • Systematic integration of repository technology options: to demonstrate the systematic integration of technologies for locating the disposal tunnels and pits by developing technology options that could contribute to the operation of disposal sites and establish criteria for locating the disposal pits in suitable rock domains.
  • Full-scale EBS dismantling experiment: to test and update the T-H-M-C coupled simulation codes by deciphering the near-field T-H-M-C coupled processes in more detail through the dismantling of the previously installed EBS setup.

Head of NEA Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning Division, Rebecca Tadesse, commented that the first meeting had been an important step in establishing a roadmap for the HIP project.

This joint project offers an important international platform for the development and demonstration of advanced technologies for deep geological disposals. There are plans to extend the Horonobe Underground Research Laboratory to 500 metres below sea level, to further enhance the site’s capability to be used for productive research and collaborative projects.

Visit the NEA’s page on radioactive waste management for more information on the Agency’s latest projects and research.

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