Validation of a physically based catchment model for application in post-closure radiological safety assessments of deep geological repositories for solid radioactive wastes

J Radiol Prot. 2000 Dec;20(4):403-21. doi: 10.1088/0952-4746/20/4/304.


The physically based river catchment modelling system SHETRAN incorporates components representing water flow, sediment transport and radionuclide transport both in solution and bound to sediments. The system has been applied to simulate hypothetical future catchments in the context of post-closure radiological safety assessments of a potential site for a deep geological disposal facility for intermediate and certain low-level radioactive wastes at Sellafield, west Cumbria. In order to have confidence in the application of SHETRAN for this purpose, various blind validation studies have been undertaken. In earlier studies, the validation was undertaken against uncertainty bounds in model output predictions set by the modelling team on the basis of how well they expected the model to perform. However, validation can also be carried out with bounds set on the basis of how well the model is required to perform in order to constitute a useful assessment tool. Herein, such an assessment-based validation exercise is reported. This exercise related to a field plot experiment conducted at Calder Hollow, west Cumbria, in which the migration of strontium and lanthanum in subsurface Quaternary deposits was studied on a length scale of a few metres. Blind predictions of tracer migration were compared with experimental results using bounds set by a small group of assessment experts independent of the modelling team. Overall, the SHETRAN system performed well, failing only two out of seven of the imposed tests. Furthermore, of the five tests that were not failed, three were positively passed even when a pessimistic view was taken as to how measurement errors should be taken into account. It is concluded that the SHETRAN system, which is still being developed further, is a powerful tool for application in post-closure radiological safety assessments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Fresh Water / analysis*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Radioactive Waste*
  • Safety*
  • United Kingdom


  • Radioactive Waste