Operation of the rock laboratory

swisstopo (which includes Swiss Geological Survey) is responsible for the independent, smooth, and safe operation of the rock laboratory. The Opalinus Clay Formation surrounding the rock laboratory is property of the Canton of Jura, and this is why the Canton is the official owner of the laboratory.

In the foreground, three firefighters in the rock laboratory; in the centre, a firefighter with a powerful flashlight in the smoke-filled tunnel. The smoke has been artificially created for this exercise.
Safety exercise with the Porrentruy Fire Brigade in the rock laboratory (artificial smoke!).

Experiments

swisstopo personnel provide the scientists at the laboratory with technical, logistical, and organisational support for their experiments. As required, they also extract samples and collect data. swisstopo also carries out experiments of its own. The videos offer viewers a brief insight into the activities of swisstopo relating to the operation of the rock laboratory.

 

Core storage

Drilling of a borehole

Safety Precautions

Safety in the rock laboratory is based on a concept that is reviewed annually by an independent safety engineer. As operator of the laboratory, swisstopo is responsible for ensuring that the local manager and his deputy implement and observe the various safety measures, comprising the following aspects:

The safety of experiments is ensured through daily inspections of active experiments and a 24-hour on-call service. The rock laboratory is powered by its own high-voltage supply line. In the event of a power failure, an emergency generator provides the necessary power for the most important experiments and safety installations.

Periodical convergence measurements are carried out in order to secure the structures and installations. These measurements indicate whether and where any movements of the tunnel walls occur. An external independent safety engineer evaluates the measured data and, if necessary, orders the closure or renovation of parts of the rock laboratory that may represent a safety risk.

To ensure the safety of personnel and visitors, exercises are carried out every two years together with local rescue crews and the fire brigade. And in the event of an accident or hazard, a special person localisation system ensures that everyone can be evacuated without delay.

Impressions from the rock laboratory