Current status of China’s repository programme

After more than 20 years of geological survey and investigation, the Beishan area was chosen as one of China ’s likely areas for its GDF for HLW/SF. Beishan, in the Gobi desert, is extremely dry and has been unchanged for millions of years. It is located in a remote area of Gansu Province in northwest China, not far from the west end of China’s Great Wall, Jia-Yu Guan (Jia-Yu Fortress). The narrow aubergine-like Gansu province is also referred to as Western River Corridor (Yellow River West Corridor), linking central China to China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region — crossing and along the Gobi Desert through about a thousand miles linking to the west part of Asia and Eastern Europe as shown in Plate VII (between pages 448 and 449).

A thorough geological survey has been carried out at Beishan (Fig. 22.7). In August 2005, the CAEA revised the long-term HLW geological reposi­tory programme, with the objective of building China’s HLW geological repository by about 2050. China is closely monitoring the potential envi­ronmental impacts of nuclear energy for future generations, particularly where HLW/SF and geological disposal are concerned. China ’s regulator body, the SEPA, implements the activities related to radioactive waste and disposal, which have been managed by the China National Nuclear Corpo­ration (CNNC). Furthermore, China ’s HLW/SF geological disposal R&D programmes are carried out by CNNC’s research and engineering organiza­tion and led by BRIUG.

The Chinese government has approved a three-phase GDF programme:

1. Phase I: Site selection and site confirmation (2001-2020): Technical preparation, HLW disposal/repository programme started in China; geo­logical study, preliminary site characterization and evaluation: investiga­tions on surface geology, hydrogeology and geophysics with the drilling of four boreholes (BS01-04) and in-situ tests in boreholes.

2. Phase II: Underground Research Laboratory (URL) construction and in-situ tests (2010-2030): in-situ tests on EBS on backfill/buffer materi­als, radionuclide migration and use of the necessary natural analogues; mock-up tests and underground lab tests of backfill/buffer materials, together with coupled THMC tests.

3. Phase III: Repository construction (2030-2040): Construction structural design, simulation and modelling, construction and preparation of geo­logical repository engineering work.

While the granite site at Beishan is regarded as the most likely site, China is keeping its options open by also examining a potential GDF site in clay formations in Xinjiang in northwest China.

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22.7 Beishan area is part of Gobi Desert (left). Beishan drilling site while engineering drilling was in operation (right).

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