Bulletin of Engineering Geology and the Environment

, Volume 78, Issue 6, pp 3863–3874 | Cite as

Subsurface fracture distribution and its correlation with the shape and thickness of the Lac du Bonnet batholith

  • Richard Everitt
Original Paper


The Lac du Bonnet batholith (LDBB) is an Archean pluton in the Superior Province in southeastern Manitoba and formerly the site of the Underground Research Laboratory operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Batholith-scale investigations were conducted there between the late 1970s and 2005 into the Canadian concept of used nuclear fuel disposal in crystalline rocks of the Canadian Shield. A review of legacy data from this period has revealed that the distribution of the fracture network can be related directly to the thickness of the intrusion, as inferred from the model of the base of the batholith. Fractures have preferentially developed in the shallow and thinner sill-like western remnant of the batholith and, in comparison, they are suppressed within and over its deep root. Fracture orientations, frequency and continuity as seen at the surface are not characteristic of the fractures within the batholith interior, even at relatively shallow depths. A substantial volume of unfractured granite has been preserved despite the LDBB’s great age and its exposure to several cycles of loading and unloading, as revealed by the regional stratigraphic record and a unique apatite fission track dating profile. The LDBB is not a one-of-a-kind anomaly, and similar fracture/host rock relationships can be found in the literature. Based on the data reported here, it can be recommended that site models for any continuance of underground nuclear waste storage define the volume distribution of the host rock and its internal structure as these may serve as guides for subsurface exploration and the development and incremental testing of a conceptual fracture model.


Granite batholith Nuclear waste storage Fractures Gravity profile Intact unfractured rock 



This paper is an unfunded project based on published sources. The borehole logs and the shaft mapping were for the most part conducted in the 1980s and 1990s at a time when this work was a component of the Canadian Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program, and was jointly funded by AECL and Ontario Hydro under the auspices of the CANDU Owners Group. Surface mapping, geophysical surveys, the placement and logging of boreholes collared at the surface and the interpretation and modelling of the results were the responsibility of the group operating mostly from the Whiteshell Laboratories. The author of this manuscript was the site geologist at the URL, responsible for subsurface mapping, borehole placement and logging and construction and reiterative testing of the site geological model.

Appreciation is extended to Paul Thompson, Kirk Osadetz and Hubert Lavallee for their comments. Finally, the author acknowledges the tremendous effort required to complete the original surface mapping, geophysical surveys and the borehole logging, and to the authors of the various geological, hydrogeological, geophysical and geomechanical reports which have been instrumental in the site characterization.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OttawaCanada

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