On 27 February 2023, the Radioactive Waste Repository Authority submitted applications for the determination of exploration areas for special intervention into the earth’s crust to the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic.
On 27 February 2023, the Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (SÚRAO) submitted applications for the determination of exploration areas for special intervention into the earth’s crust to the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic. Once these areas have been approved, SÚRAO will initiate geological survey research work at the four candidate sites currently being considered for the potential future construction of the Czech Republic’s deep geological repository for radioactive waste. SÚRAO has requested the granting of exploration areas at the sites up to 2032.
The application for the determination of an exploration area for the Březový potok site is available for download HERE.
The application for the determination of an exploration area for the Janoch site is available for download HERE.
The application for the determination of an exploration area for the Horka site is available for download HERE.
The application for the determination of an exploration area for the Hrádek site is available for download HERE.
The objective of the geological research in 2023 is to expand the set of data and information so as to enhance the level of knowledge of the geological structure of the exploration areas and the relevant rock environments so as to allow for the updating of the safety case for, and the technical design of, the planned deep geological repository (i.e. the technical feasibility of both the underground and surface areas).
It will be important to define and accurately locate suitable blocks in the rock environments for the potential location of the deep geological repository and to identify, classify and accurately describe the various components of the brittle tectonics, e.g. faults and fracture systems. The assessment of the faults must be conducted from both the kinematic and hydrogeological/hydraulic points of view, which will require the application of different approaches, the use of different investigation methods and the careful consideration of the various parameters (properties) of the faults when estimating their potential impact on nuclear safety.
The research in the first quarter of 2023 will include the preparation of field topographic documentation (the preparation of printed topographic documentation) for geological mapping purposes at a scale of 1:25,000 and the planning of fieldwork, as well as the preparation of a database of the various structures and a geographical information system. A new mobile application for the collection of field data that will enhance the efficiency of the geological mapping process will be tested from the beginning of the year.
Geological mapping will commence in March 2023 accompanied by the continuous storage of the data obtained in the reference points database. The geological dating process will involve the collection of representative petrological and geochemical samples from the various lithological types present at the sites.
Suitable locations for the planned borehole drilling campaigns will be selected throughout the year based on both currently available and new field data; the final selection of these locations is scheduled for the final quarter of 2023.
The pre-selection of the most suitable locations for the geophysical profiles will be conducted at the end of 2023; these profiles will subsequently be used to enhance the accuracy of the geological mapping and to create 3D models.
Reconnaissance mapping research will commence of the areas within 25 km of the expected exploration areas in the final quarter of 2023 aimed at the more detailed description of significant tectonic features.
The geological research in 2023 will focus on the field reconnaissance work associated with the geological and hydrogeological mapping and the monitoring of the underground and surface water. This will involve primarily regular field trips by groups of around five geologists who will verify the archived information in the field and methodically collect the data and rock samples required to compile special-purpose geological maps. This will be accompanied by research for structural, morpho-structural and geomorphological analysis purposes and the conducting of remote sensing.
The commencement of the field stage of the research consists of the verification of visual interpretations for the compilation of a digital model of the relief focusing particularly on areas that feature uncertainties (e.g. ambiguous interpretation, surfaces significantly transformed by anthropogenic activity, etc.). The fieldwork will also include the acquisition of field documentation.
The planning of geological research in 2023 also included field visits by various experts, including hydrogeologists and hydrologists, whose main task at the candidate sites will be to verify all the accessible hydrological and hydrogeological components – springs, wells, streams, water bodies etc. This part of the research will include the taking of field measurements of the physico-chemical properties of the water and the collection of water samples from selected features for subsequent laboratory analysis.
Based on the resulting data, a proposal will be drawn up for the conducting of detailed and regular hydrological, hydrochemical and hydrogeological monitoring, which will provide information on the current surface and underground water conditions at the sites, and which will enable the prediction of their expected development over time and the impact of the future facility on the quality of the water in general at the sites. Part of the monitoring preparations will comprise the installation of a climate station at each of the investigated sites that will monitor primarily the temperature, the direction of air/wind flows, the precipitation and the number of days below zero degrees.
Imaging research will also be conducted via the study of aerial and satellite images and their validation in the field.
The research planned for this year also includes the classification of the data obtained and the subsequent preparation of the data for the construction of geological models and the updating of the data on the geological structures.
As part of the fieldwork, visits to the sites are planned this year for groups of experts from the Czech Geological Survey to study the geological conditions at the sites, to collect surface samples of the rocks, soil and water and to identify other significant geological phenomena, e.g. manifestations of tectonic disturbances on the surface, landslides and significant springs. The groups of (an average of 5) experts are expected to visit the sites approximately once per month. It can be assumed that the frequency of these visits will decrease as the fieldwork progresses.
All the research will be performed without the use of heavy equipment, i.e. primarily methods that allow for problem-free access to the research areas.
The first wave of experts began work at the sites in February following explanatory visits to the sites by SÚRAO’s Managing Director. Further research work is planned at the sites from March to the end of 2023. Most of the research will be conducted during the dormant season and with the minimum of snow cover so that the experts in the field are able to record all the necessary data.
Groups of a maximum of five geologists will investigate the sites using cars or light all-terrain vehicles after having obtained all the necessary entry permits. It is assumed that the groups of geologists will visit the sites once per month for two to three days at a time.
The research and exploration work based on which the final location of the deep geological repository will be selected will fully respect the biological and natural values of the candidate sites. In particular, it will be necessary to carefully monitor the occurrence of protected and other rare species of plants and animals and biologically valuable habitats. The results of the biological surveys and monitoring will be used in the selection of the final site and for the planning of other research at the sites aimed at minimising the impacts on the natural value of the areas, especially concerning populations of rare and endangered species and areas that contain natural habitats.
Biological surveys and monitoring include:
The Biology I project (report TZ 591/2022; this report has been published on the SÚRAO website), conducted in 2022, involved detailed searches of the Nature Conservation Database managed by the Nature and Landscape Protection Agency and the Fauna Database managed by the Czech Ornithological Society. The output comprised the identification of so-called “discovery polygons” in which the occurrence of specially-protected species of plants and animals was detected. This comprised the first stage in the design of a detailed biological survey and monitoring programme.
Biological screening, which is currently in the detailed planning stage, will comprise the second phase of research for the detailed biological survey and monitoring programme. The research will continue to focus on those areas with the documented occurrence of specially-protected species of plants and animals, and will also focus on other areas with the occurrence of natural habitats and other rare and endangered species included on the so-called “red list”. The aim will be to validate the data obtained from the research and identification of specific phenomena in the area.
Biological screening must be conducted during the growing season for most plants and animals, i.e. March to October in the Czech Republic.
Approximately 30 visits are expected per site and the number of visits to specific locations at the sites will depend on the biological value of the respective area, which is still being determined. Usually 1-2 (maximum of 3) experts on different groups of plants and animals will conduct the fieldwork.
Most of the biological research-related visits will be planned for the period April-July. Observations will be performed via the free access to the landscape approach (the designation of geological survey areas for special intervention into the earth’s crust will not be required). Fenced off areas will not be entered. Some of the fauna will have to observed at night (e.g. certain bird species and bats). The exact schedule will be strongly dependent on the weather (e.g. in wet weather it is not possible to observe snakes, butterflies do not fly, etc.).