Journal Article Controls on radon emission from granite as evidenced by compression testing to failure

Koike, Katsuaki  ,  Yoshinaga, Tohru  ,  Suetsugu, Kenta  ,  Kashiwaya, Koki  ,  Asaue, Hisafumi

203 ( 1 )  , pp.428 - 436 , 2015-08-27 , Oxford University Press
A set of uniaxial compression tests of granite specimens taken from five localities across Japan was conducted to identify the factors controlling the quantity of radon (Rn) emission (sum of [222]Rn and [220]Rn) during compression and failure. An α-scintillation detector and a gas flow unit were installed with a testing machine to enable continuous measurement of Rn emissions. Common to all specimens, Rn emissions remained at or slightly declined from the background level after the start of loading; this is similar to the natural phenomenon of decline in groundwater-dissolved Rn before an earthquake. Closure of original microcracks is the most likely cause of the initial Rn decline. Then, Rn emissions begin to increase at 46–57 per cent stress level to the uniaxial compressive strength, and continue to increase even after the failure of specimen. This commencement stress level is close to the general stress level at outbreak of acoustic emissions caused by the development and connection of microcracks. The Rn increase after failure is similar to a phenomenon observed in aftershocks, which may originate from the enhancement of Rn emanations from grains due to the large increase in total surface area and stress release. In addition to the initial radioelement content in rock, the failure pattern (conjugate shear versus longitudinal tensile type), compressive strength, and grain size are possible control factors of the maximum quantity of Rn emissions induced by failure. This maximum may also be affected by the development velocity of the emanation area, which is related to the Rn emanation fraction, associated with the fragmentation. In addition to the magnitude of an earthquake and its hypocentre distance to Rn detectors, the magnitude of increase in Rn concentration in soil gas and groundwater before, during, and after an earthquake in crystalline rocks depends on the intrinsic radioelement content, the mineral texture, and the mechanical properties of rocks. Rock fracturing and failure do not necessarily induce increase in Rn emission due to these rock properties, which can be used to understand the sensitivity of Rn concentration in soil gas or groundwater in connection with an earthquake.

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