Ground water moving through permeable Paleozoic carbonate rocks represents the most likely pathway for migration of radioactive contaminants from nuclear weapons testing at the Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada. The strontium isotopic composition (87Sr/86Sr) of ground water offers a useful means of testing hydrochemical models of regional flow involving advection and reaction. However, reaction models require knowledge of 87Sr/86Sr data for carbonate rock in the Nevada Test Site vicinity, which is scarce. To fill this data gap, samples of core or cuttings were selected from 22 boreholes at depth intervals from which water samples had been obtained previously around the Nevada Test Site at Yucca Flat, Frenchman Flat, Rainier Mesa, and Mercury Valley. Dilute acid leachates of these samples were analyzed for a suite of major- and trace-element concentrations (MgO, CaO, SiO2, Al2O3, MnO, Rb, Sr, Th, and U) as well as for 87Sr/86Sr. Also presented are unpublished analyses of 114 Paleozoic carbonate samples from outcrops, road cuts, or underground sites in the Funeral Mountains, Bare Mountain, Striped Hills, Specter Range, Spring Mountains, and ranges east of the Nevada Test Site measured in the early 1990's. These data originally were collected to evaluate the potential for economic mineral deposition at the potential high-level radioactive waste repository site at Yucca Mountain and adjacent areas (Peterman and others, 1994). Samples were analyzed for a suite of trace elements (Rb, Sr, Zr, Ba, La, and Ce) in bulk-rock powders, and 87Sr/86Sr in partial digestions of carbonate rock using dilute acid or total digestions of silicate-rich rocks. Pre-Tertiary core samples from two boreholes in the central or western part of the Nevada Test Site also were analyzed. Data are presented in tables and summarized in graphs; however, no attempt is made to interpret results with respect to ground-water flow paths in this report. Present-day 87Sr/86Sr values are compared to values for Paleozoic seawater present at the time of deposition. Many of the samples have 87Sr/86Sr compositions that remain relatively unmodified from expected seawater values. However, rocks underlying the northern Nevada Test Site as well as rocks exposed at Bare Mountain commonly have elevated 87Sr/86Sr values derived from post-depositional addition of radiogenic Sr most likely from fluids circulating through rubidium-rich Paleozoic strata or Precambrian basement rocks.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Strontium Isotopic Composition of Paleozoic Carbonate Rocks in the Nevada Test Site Vicinity, Clark, Lincoln, and Nye Counties, Nevada, and Inyo County, California