The Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at their Nevada Site Office are addressing groundwater contamination resulting from historical underground nuclear testing through the Environmental Management program and, in particular, the Underground Test Area project. One issue of concern is the nature of the somewhat poorly constrained pre Tertiary geology and its effects on ground-water flow in the area adjacent to a nuclear test. Ground water modelers would like to know more about the hydrostratigraphy and geologic structure to support a hydrostratigraphic framework model that is under development for the Yucca Flat Corrective Action Unit (CAU).
During 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, supported by the DOE and NNSA-NSO, collected and processed data from 51 magnetotelluric (MT) and audio-magnetotelluric (AMT) stations at the Nevada Test Site in and near Yucca Flat to assist in characterizing the pre-Tertiary geology in that area. The primary purpose was to refine the character, thickness, and lateral extent of pre Tertiary confining units. In particular, a major goal has been to define the upper clastic confining unit (late Devonian - Mississippian-age siliciclastic rocks assigned to the Eleana Formation and Chainman Shale) in the Yucca Flat area. The MT and AMT data have been released in separate USGS Open File Reports.
The Nevada Test Site magnetotelluric data interpretation presented in this report includes the results of detailed two-dimensional (2 D) resistivity modeling for each profile (including alternative interpretations) and gross inferences on the three dimensional (3 D) character of the geology beneath each station. The character, thickness, and lateral extent of the Chainman Shale and Eleana Formation that comprise the Upper Clastic Confining Unit are generally well determined in the upper 5 km. Inferences can be made regarding the presence of the Lower Clastic Confining Unit at depths below 5 km. Large fault structures such as the CP Thrust fault, the Carpetbag fault, and the Yucca fault that cross Yucca Flat are also discernable as are other smaller faults. The subsurface electrical resistivity distribution and inferred geologic structures determined by this investigation should help constrain the hydrostratigraphic framework model that is under development.