The locally zeolitized Topopah Spring Member of the Paintbrush Tuff (13 Myr.), Yucca Mountain, Nevada, U.S.A., is part of a thick sequence of zeolitized pyroclastic units. Most of the zeolitized units are nonwelded tuffs that were altered during low-temperature diagenesis, but the distribution and textural setting of zeolite (heulandite-clinoptilolite) and smectite in the densely welded Topopah Spring tuff suggest that these hydrous minerals formed while the tuff was still cooling after pyroclastic emplacement and welding. The hydrous minerals are concentrated within a transition zone between devitrified tuff in the central part of the unit and underlying vitrophyre. Movement of liquid and convected heat along fractures from the devitrified tuff to the ritrophyre caused local devitrification and hydrous mineral crystallization. Oxygen isotope geothermometry of cogenetic quartz confirms the nondiagenetic moderate temperature origin of the hydrous minerals at temperatures of ??? 40-100??C, assuming a meteoric water source. The Topopah Spring tuff is under consideration for emplacement of a high-level nuclear waste repository. The natural rock alteration of the cooling pyroclastic deposit may be a good natural analog for repository-induced hydrothermal alteration. As a result of repository thermal loading, temperatures in the Topopah Spring vitrophyre may rise sufficiently to duplicate the inferred temperatures of natural zeolitic alteration. Heated water moving downward from the repository into the vitrophyre may contribute to new zeolitic alteration. ?? 1989.
Additional publication details
Moderate-temperature zeolitic alteration in a cooling pyroclastic deposit