Natural hydraulic barriers exist at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, a potential high-level nuclear waste repository, that have been identified as possible lateral diversions for reducing deep percolation through the waste storage area. Historical development of the conceptual model of lateral diversion has been limited by available field data, but numerical investigations presented the possibility of significant lateral diversion due to the presence of a thin, porous rock layer, the Paintbrush nonwelded tuffs. Analytical analyses of the influence of transitional changes in properties suggest that minimal lateral diversion is likely at Yucca Mountain. Numerical models, to this point, have not accounted for the gradual transition of properties or the existence of multiple layers that could inadvertently influence the simulation of lateral diversion as an artifact of numerical model discretization. Analyses were made of subsurface matric potential measurements, and comparisons were made of surface infiltration estimates with deeper percolation flux calculations using chloride-mass-balance calculations and simulations of measured temperature profiles. These analyses suggest that insignificant lateral diversion has occurred above the repository horizon and that water generally moves vertically through the Paintbrush nonwelded tuffs.
Additional publication details
Influence of transitional volcanic strata on lateral diversion at Yucca Mountain, Nevada