Water, Air, and Soil Pollution

, Volume 206, Issue 1–4, pp 295–306 | Cite as

Laboratory Investigation Into Factors Affecting Performance of Capillary Barrier System in Unsaturated Soil

  • Tianwei Qian
  • Lijuan Huo
  • Dongye Zhao


Covers of the nuclear waste repository are of great significance to the long-term safe storage and disposal of nuclear wastes. Capillary barriers have proven to be effective to resist the downward water seeping into the underlying nuclear wastes, especially in dry climate, and have been widely used worldwide. Infiltrating water is removed from the fine layer by evaporation or transpiration or through percolation into the coarse layer, which plays a critical role in preventing the water from further infiltration in the bulk wastes. In this paper, laboratory infiltration tests were conducted with an organic glass box, filled with fine-grained quartz sand in which a layer of coarse-grained quartz sand was emplaced horizontally or at various slopes (10° and 20°), and the capillary barrier effect under various conditions (different thickness, slop of coarse-grained quartz sand layer, and sprinkling intensity) was investigated in detail. The results show that the thickness of the underlying coarse layer plays a critical role in governing the performance of the capillary barrier. The efficiency of capillary barrier increases with increasing thickness and/or slope of the coarse layer, but decreases with increasing sprinkling intensity. For a sprinkling intensity of 20 mm/day, a 30-mm-thick coarse layer even emplaced horizontally can achieve 100% water diversion. In addition, a visible tracer test was performed with an inert red dyestuff to trace the streamlines; the results indicate that even with a 7-mm-thick coarse layer, the capillary barrier can offer marked ability to prevent water from percolating into the coarse layer. The findings could be useful for improving engineered uses of capillary barriers at waste repository sites.


Capillary barrier Landfill cover Waste depositary Hazardous waste storage 



This work was partially supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (no. 40572168, no. 40810104035), the Natural Science Foundation of Shanxi Province (no. 20051060), the Special Fund for Talents Introducing and Developing of Shanxi province, Program for Young Academic Leaders of Higher Learning Institutions of Shanxi, the Auburn-TYUST Scholars Exchange Program, and an AWWRF grant (PFA 4057).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Engineering Program, Department of Civil EngineeringAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Environmental ScienceTaiyuan University of Science and TechnologyShanxiPeople’s Republic of China

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