Assistant professor Pania Newell (Co-PI) in collaboration with the University of Colorado-Boulder (Assistant Professor Yida Zhang-PI and Professor Yunping Xi-Co-PI) received a $799,978.00 DOE award through the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).

Modeling coupled THMC processes in geomaterials near nuclear waste repositories at various time scales is an extremely challenging task and requires collaborative research effort from the field of geomechanics, hydrology and geochemistry. This project focuses on the geomechanical aspects of modeling by addressing the time-dependent evolution of rock microstructure and its coupling with the Thermal-Hydrological-Chemical (THC) processes that are of first-order importance to the stability and the isolation performance of repositories. The research will delineate an integrated experimental, theoretical and numerical strategy in assessing the evolution of excavation damaged zone (EDZ) over time and its implication on the long-term migration of hazardous species. These results will enhance the confidence of the predicted long-term performance of repositories, which helps to move towards the goal of one-million-year isolation of high-level nuclear wastes.

This project entitled: “Time-dependent THMC properties and microstructural evolution of damaged rocks in excavation damaged zone” provides a unique opportunity for faculty researchers and their graduate students at both universities to work closely on advancing the-state-of-the-art in the field of nuclear waste repositories. Newell received her Ph.D. in Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering, University of Colorado, Boulder in 2011. She joined the U in January 2017 after working as a senior member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories for six years, and currently directs the Integrated Multi-Physics Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering.