November 5, 2021 | PhD Defense | Jente Pauwels | Chemical and radiological assessment of deep brine-type geothermal groundwaters | KU Leuven

Name: Jente Pauwels

Date: November 5, 2021 - 17h00 CET

Location: Thermotechnisch Instituut
Kasteelpark Arenberg 10, 3001 Heverlee
Aula van de Tweede Hoofdwet (TI 01.02)

Chemical and radiological assessment of deep brine-type geothermal groundwaters

Elevated activities of naturally occurring radionuclides (NORs) detected in deep geothermal groundwaters, as well as the high salt concentrations observed in these groundwaters, pose several challenges to the successful exploitation of deep geothermal energy. As a result of changing conditions in the surface installations of the geothermal power plant (temperature, pressure,…), minerals become oversaturated in the brine and will start precipitating. This scale formation can cause clogging of the wells and heat exchanger. Moreover, it will decrease the productivity and efficiency of the geothermal system.

It is observed that several naturally occurring radionuclides (such as 226Ra, 228Ra, 210Pb and 210Po), will precipitate together with these scales. The high amount of accumulated radionuclides requires the expensive disposal of radioactive waste. An increased insight into the radiological and chemical aspects inherently associated with deep geothermal installations, is necessary. It will allow for system optimization to minimize contamination of installations and equipment with NORM-associated radionuclides.

During this research, lab experiments, radionuclide measurements and geochemical modeling of reactions and scale formation were carried out. This will allow to propose mitigating strategies in case contaminations or the accumulation of NORM waste would occur.



  • Valérie Cappuyns (KU Leuven)

  • Philippe Muchez (KU Leuven)

SCK CEN mentors:

  • Sonia Salah (SCK CEN)

  • Mirela Vasile (SCK CEN)

VITO mentor:

  • Ben Laenen (VITO)

Click here for a list of obtained PhD degrees.