Kristopher Kuhlman

and 19 more

The Brine Availability Test in Salt (BATS) is a field heater test being conducted in the bedded salt formation at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, NM. BATS is focused on exploring brine availability as part of a wider investigation into the disposal of heat-generating radioactive waste in salt. Brine has the potential to transport radionuclides, corrode waste forms and packages, reduce criticality, and pressurize porosity to resist closure through salt creep. In BATS, two identical arrays of horizontal boreholes were constructed in an experimental drift, 650 m below ground at WIPP. In each array, 13 observational boreholes were installed around a central borehole. One of the two array was heated, and the other array was left at ambient temperature. During the first heating phase (January to March 2020), the 750 W heater ran for 4 weeks. The central boreholes included dry nitrogen gas circulation behind a packer. The gas stream removed moisture which flowed into the boreholes. The gas stream was analyzed in-drift for stable water isotopes using a cavity ringdown spectrometer and gas composition using a quadrupole mass spectrometer. The satellite boreholes in each array included numerous thermocouples, electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) electrodes, acoustic emissions (AE) piezoelectric transducers, distributed temperature and strain fiber optics, and a cement seal exposure tests (both sorel and fly-ash base concretes). Cores from the boreholes were X-ray CT imaged for mineralogical and fracture distribution. We present an overview of the first phase of the test, and illustrate key data collected during the first heating cycle. Follow-on tests in the same boreholes will include gas and liquid tracer tests and additional packer-based gas permeability testing. New boreholes for the next round of BATS in 2021 are being planned.