This paper presents several different conceptual models of the Large Hydraulic Gradient (LHG) region north of Yucca Mountain and describes the impact of those models on groundwater flow near the potential high-level repository site. The results are based on a numerical model of site-scale saturated zone beneath Yucca Mountain. This model is used for performance assessment predictions of radionuclide transport and to guide future data collection and modeling activities. The numerical model is calibrated by matching available water level measurements using parameter estimation techniques, along with more informal comparisons of the model to hydrologic and geochemical information. The model software (hydrologic simulation code FEHM and parameter estimation software PEST) and model setup allows for efficient calibration of multiple conceptual models. Until now, the Large Hydraulic Gradient has been simulated using a low-permeability, east-west oriented feature, even though direct evidence for this feature is lacking. In addition to this model, we investigate and calibrate three additional conceptual models of the Large Hydraulic Gradient, all of which are based on a presumed zone of hydrothermal chemical alteration north of Yucca Mountain. After examining the heads and permeabilities obtained from the calibrated models, we present particle pathways from the potential repository that record differences in the predicted groundwater flow regime. The results show that Large Hydraulic Gradient can be represented with the alternate conceptual models that include the hydrothermally altered zone. The predicted pathways are mildly sensitive to the choice of the conceptual model and more sensitive to the quality of calibration in the vicinity on the repository. These differences are most likely due to different degrees of fit of model to data, and do not represent important differences in hydrologic conditions for the different conceptual models. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
The site-scale saturated zone flow model for Yucca Mountain: Calibration of different conceptual models and their impact on flow paths