Other Potential Future Experiments
• Large-scale rock mechanics experiments, including induced brittle failure on new or preexisting natural faults through controlled stress relaxation (e.g., with slow release of hydraulic support structures) or other means.
• Seismic experiments to detect and monitor hydraulic fracture propagation and fault rupture with closely spaced monitoring devices and subsequent intense sampling or mining. An advantage of a dedicated site for such tests is that the dedicated site would not have the noisy active mining operations or nearby tunnels that are in use (traffic, water flow).
• Hydrogeologic experiments, including effects of microbes on flow properties. Such tests could include controlled flooding of deeper mine sections.
• Experiments relevant to nuclear and chemical waste disposal—for example, radioactive tracer studies.
• The underground access provided by DUSEL is an opportunity for determining some “ground truths” and improving three-dimensional seismic and other surface-based geophysical exploration techniques by comparing the geophysical predictions with actual observations at depth. Finally, the increasing variety of engineering applications of the underground—for example, for nuclear and hazardous waste isolation, including CO2 sequestration for the development of domestic natural gas resources, and for geothermal energy37—will stimulate a variety of engineering studies for which DUSEL will be well suited.
Conclusion: The ability to perform long-term experiments in the regulated environment of an underground research facility could enable a paradigm shift in research in subsurface engineering and would allow other valuable experiments in the geosciences and biosciences.
37 The events in Japan resulting from the devastating earthquake in 2011 have reopened discussion of underground location of nuclear reactors to avoid the possibility of releases of dangerous concentrations of radionuclides into the atmosphere.