The conditions of the deep subsurface, combined by perturbations caused by geological disposal of radioactive waste create multiple extreme conditions (limited space availability, high pH, high temperature etc.) for microbial communities. Microbial activity has the potential to cause corrosion of steel and alteration of bentonite clays used in geological disposal facilities. To understand the limits on microbial growth, and the potential for microbial activity to affect the swelling behaviour of the bentonite and metal corrosion, a suite of laboratory experiments is being conducted. In situ repository conditions have been replicated in the MIND (Horizon2020) project. Preliminary results show evidence of corrosion in all experiments, an increase in the basal spacings of smectites in the zone immediately surrounding the steel and inoculated samples had evidence of calcite crystal formation, accompanied by differences in the iron phases. These experiments simulate the in situ conditions well, but the complex nature of this experimental design (high pressure and flow) reduces the practicality of varying the environmental conditions. To complement these investigations, a low-tech solution has been implemented with unpressurised, hydrated bentonite batch experiments. The simpler nature of this set-up allows for investigation of more parameters. Microcosms with artificial groundwater used in the MIND set-up are being compared to the MIND groundwater composition, modelled to represent permafrost conditions. The effect of incubation temperature is also being investigated. Combined, these experiments will help to understand the influence of microbes under the extremes of geological disposal facilities and how their behaviour may change by external parameters.

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