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Calculations made by the U.S. Department of Energy's Yucca Mountain Project as part of the licensing of a proposed geologic repository in southwestern Nevada for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste, predict that emplacement tunnels will remain open with little collapse long after ground support has disintegrated. This conclusion includes the effects of anticipated seismic events. Natural analogues cannot provide a quantitative test of this conclusion, but they can provide a reasonableness test by examining the naturally occuring and anthropogenic examples of stability of subterranean openings. Available data from a variety of sources, combined with limited observations by the author, show that natural underground openings tend to resist collapse for millions of years and that anthropogenic subterranean openings have remained open from before recorded history through today. This stability is true even in seismically active areas. In fact, the archaeological record is heavily skewed toward preservation of underground structures relative to those found at the surface.
Additional Publication Details
Analogues as a check of predicted drift stability at Yucca Mountain, Nevada
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11th International High Level Radioactive Waste Management Conference