A tectonic synthesis of the NTS (Nevada Test Site) region, when combined with seismic data and a few stress and strain measurements, suggests a tentative model for stress orientation. This model proposes that the NTS is undergoing extension in a N. 50 ? W.-S. 50 ? E. direction coincident with the minimum principal stress direction. The model is supported by (1) a tectonic similarity between a belt of NTS Quaternary faulting and part of the Nevada-California seismic belt, for which northwest-southeast extension has been suggested; (2) historic northeast- trending natural- and explosion-produced fractures in the NTS; (3) the virtual absence in the NTS of northwest-trending Quaternary faults; (4) the character of north-trending faults and basin configuration in the Yucca Flat area, which suggest a component of right-lateral displacement and post-10 m.y. (million year) oblique separation of the sides of the north-trending depression; (5) seismic evidence suggesting a north- to northwest-trending tension axis; (6) strain measurements, which indicate episodes of northwest-southeast extension within a net northeast-southwest compression; (7) a stress estimate based on tectonic cracking that indicates near-surface northwest-southeast-directed tension, and two stress measurements indicating an excess (tectonic) maximum principal compressive stress in a northeast-southwest direction at depths of about 1,000 feet (305 m); and (8) enlargement of some drill holes in Yucca Flat in a northwest-southeast direction.
It is inferred that the stress episode resulting in the formation of deep alluvium-filled trenches began somewhere between 10 and possibly less than 4 m.y. ago in the NTS and is currently active. In the Walker Lane of western Nevada, crystallization of plutons associated with Miocene volcanism may have increased the competency and thickness of the crust and its ability to propagate stress, thereby modulating the frequency (spacing) of basin-range faults.