Ground Water at Yucca Mountain

HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE?

Final Report of the Panel on Coupled Hydrologic/Tectonic/Hydrothermal Systems at Yucca Mountain

Panel on Coupled Hydrologic/Tectonic/Hydrothermal Systems at Yucca Mountain

Board on Radioactive Waste Management

Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources

National Research Council

NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, D. C. 1992



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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? Ground Water at Yucca Mountain HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? Final Report of the Panel on Coupled Hydrologic/Tectonic/Hydrothermal Systems at Yucca Mountain Panel on Coupled Hydrologic/Tectonic/Hydrothermal Systems at Yucca Mountain Board on Radioactive Waste Management Commission on Geosciences, Environment, and Resources National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D. C. 1992

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been reviewed by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Press is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Kenneth Shine is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. Support for this study by the Panel on Coupled Hydrologic/Tectonic/Hydrothermal Systems at Yucca Mountain was provided by the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management, U.S. Department of Energy, under agreement DE-AC01-88RW00142. Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 92-60573 International Standard Book Number 0-309-04748-X S-604 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, Washington, DC 20418 Printed in the United States of America.

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? PANEL ON COUPLED PROCESSES AT YUCCA MOUNTAIN C. BARRY RALEIGH, University of Hawaii, Chairman GEORGE A. THOMPSON, Stanford University, Vice-Chairman WILLIAM F. BRACE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (ret.) BARRY H. G. BRADY, Dowell—Schlumberger JOHN D. BREDEHOEFT, U. S. Geological Survey RAYMOND M. BURKE, Humboldt State University ROBERT O. FOURNIER, U. S. Geological Survey SABODH K. GARG, S—Cubed GEORGE M. HORNBERGER, University of Virginia ROBIN K. McGUIRE, Risk Engineering, Inc. AMOS M. NUR, Stanford University H. J. RAMEY, Stanford University EDWIN W. ROEDDER, Harvard University DOUGLAS RUMBLE, Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington W. GEOFFREY SPAULDING, Dames & Moore BRIAN P. WERNICKE, California Institute of Technology MARY LOU ZOBACK, U. S. Geological Survey National Research Council Staff INA B. ALTERMAN, Senior Staff Officer RICKY A. PAYNE, Project Assistant

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? BOARD ON RADIOACTIVE WASTE MANAGEMENT CHRIS G. WHIPPLE, Clement International, Chairman CHARLES FAIRHURST, University of Minnesota, Vice-Chairman COLIN J. ALLAN, AECL Research, Whiteshell Laboratory JEAN M. BAHR, University of Wisconsin—Madison LYNDA BROTHERS, Davis Wright Tremaine SOL BURSTEIN, Consultant, Wisconsin Electric Power PAUL BUSCH, Malcolm Pirnie, Inc. MELVIN W. CARTER, Georgia Institute of Technology CARON CHESS, Rutgers University E. WILLIAM COLGLAZIER, National Academy of Sciences B. JOHN GARRICK, PLG, Inc. ROBERT D. HATCHER, University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory DAVID H. MARKS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology PERRY L. McCARTY, Stanford University ROGER O. McCLELLAN, Chemical Industry Institute of Technology FRED W. McLAFFERTY, Cornell University D. KIRK NORDSTROM, U. S. Geological Survey GLENN PAULSON, Illinois Institute of Technology DAN W. REICHER, Natural Resources Defense Council Staff PETER B. MYERS, Staff Director CARL A. ANDERSON, Deputy Staff Director INA B. ALTERMAN, Senior Staff Officer ROBERT S. ANDREWS, Senior Staff Officer ALEXANDRA BERNSTEIN, Research Associate REBECCA D. ROSS, Administrative Assistant RICKY A. PAYNE, Project Assistant SHELLEY MYERS, Project Assistant JAMES GLADDEN, Project Assistant

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? COMMISSION ON GEOSCIENCES, ENVIRONMENT, AND RESOURCES M. GORDON WOLMAN, The Johns Hopkins University ROBERT C. BEARDSLEY, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution B. CLARK BURCHFIEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology PETER S. EAGLESON, Massachusetts Institute of Technology HELEN M. INGRAM, University of Arizona GENE E. LIKENS, Institute of Ecosystem Studies SYUKURO MANABE, NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory JACK E. OLIVER, Cornell University PHILLIP A. PALMER, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. FRANK L. PARKER, Vanderbilt University/Clemson University DUNCAN T. PATTEN, Arizona State University MAXINE L. SAVITZ, Allied Signal Aerospace Company LARRY SMARR, University of Illinois at Urbana—Champaign STEVEN M. STANLEY, The Johns Hopkins University SIR CRISPIN TICKELL, Green College at the Radcliffe Observatory KARL K. TUREKIAN, Yale University IRVIN L. WHITE, Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories Staff STEPHEN RATTIEN, Executive Director STEPHEN D. PARKER, Associate Executive Director JANICE E. MEHLER, Assistant Executive Director JEANETTE SPOON, Financial Officer CARLITA PERRY, Administrative Assistant ROBIN LEWIS, Senior Project Assistant

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE? Contents     EXECUTIVE SUMMARY   1      Introduction,   1      Has It Happened?   3      Conclusion,   5      Can It Happen?   5      Recommendations,   8  1   INTRODUCTION   10  2   WATER LEVELS IN THE VICINITY OF THE PROPOSED REPOSITORY IN THE LAST 100,000 YEARS   15      Geologic Setting of Yucca Mountain and Environs,   15      Episodic Ground-Water Discharge Thesis,   26      Soil Development and Geomorphological Character of the Region,   27      Hydrologic Evidence from Springs,   34      Morphologic/Textural Evidence Exhibited by Chemical Precipitates,   38      Evidence Exhibited by Breccias,   42      Geochemical and Mineralogic Considerations,   47      Isotopic Evidence,   48      Conclusions,   54      Recommendations,   56      References,   58

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE?  3   MIGHT INCREASED RAINFALL CAUSE FLOODING OF THE PROPOSED REPOSITORY?   62      Introduction,   62      Hydrogeological Setting,   63      A Model of Ground-Water Flow at Yucca Mountain,   68      Evidence for Past Variability in Rainfall,   72      Paleoclimatic Reconstructions,   79      Model Calculations of Potential Rise in the Ground-Water Table Due to Increased Precipitation,   82      Conclusions,   85      Recommendations,   86      References,   89  4   CAN AN IGNEOUS INTRUSION RAISE THE WATER TABLE TO THE PROPOSED REPOSITORY LEVEL?   93      Summary of Volcanic History of the Region,   93      Style and Size of a Likely Intrusion in the Yucca Mountain Region,   94      Models of Water Table Rise Accompanying Dike Intrusion,   97      Possible Deep (Lower Crustal) Magma Chambers in the Yucca Mountain Region,   98      Probabilistic Assessment of the Likelihood of a Basaltic Dike Intrusion,   99      Conclusions,   100      Recommendations,   101      References,   101  5   COULD A NEARBY EARTHQUAKE CAUSE FLOODING OF THE PROPOSED REPOSITORY?   104      Introduction,   104      Hydrologic Responses to Earthquakes,   107      Historical Evidence,   109      Recommendation,   111      Earthquake Models,   112      Conclusions Based on Results of Modeling To Date,   116      Recommendation,   118      Earthquake Probability,   118      Conclusions,   123      Recommendations,   124      References,   124

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Ground Water at Yucca Mountain: HOW HIGH CAN IT RISE?  6   SUMMARY OF CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS   128      Has It Happened?   130      Can It Happen?   135      Additional Issues of Concern,   139     APPENDIXES       A  A Review of the Isotopic Geochemistry of the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, Proposed Nuclear Waste Repository Site   147     B  Yucca Mountain: Ground-Water Flow   172     C  The Effects of Pluvial Climates in the Vicinity of Yucca Mountain: A Summary   190     D  Response of the Ground-Water System at Yucca Mountain to an Earthquake   212     E  Probabilities of Earthquakes Near Yucca Mountain, Nevada   223