This report describes the geology and hydrology of a portion of the Salt Valley anticline lying north of Moab, Utah, that is being studied as a potential site for underground storage of nuclear waste in salt. Selection of this area was based on recommendations made in an earlier appraisal of the potential of Paradox basin salt deposits for such use.
Part of sec. 5, T. 23 S., R. 20 E. has been selected as a site for subsurface investigation as a potential repository for radioactive waste. This site has easy access to transportation, is on public land, is isolated from human habitation, is not visible from Arches National Park, and the salt body lies within about 800 feet (244 m) of the surface. Further exploration should include investigation of possible ground water in the caprock and physical exploration of the salt body to identify a thick bed of salt for use as a storage zone that can be isolated from the shaly interbeds that possibly contain quantities of hydrocarbons.
Salt Valley anticline, a northwest-trending diapiric structure, consists of Mesozoic sedimentary rocks arched over a thick core of salt of the Paradox Member of the Middle Pennsylvanian Hermosa Formation. Salt began to migrate to form and/or develop this structure shortly after it was deposited, probably in response to faulting. This migration caused upwelling of the salt creating a linear positive area. This positive area, in turn, caused increased deposition of sediments in adjacent areas which further enhanced salt migration. Not until late Jurassic time had flowage of the salt slowed sufficiently to allow sediments of the Morrison and younger formations to be deposited across the salt welt. A thick cap of insoluble residue was formed on top of the salt diapir as a result of salt dissolution through time.
The crest of the anticline is breached; it collapsed in two stages during the Tertiary Period. The first stage was graben collapse during the early Tertiary; the second stage occurred after Miocene regional uplift had caused downcutting streams to breach the salt core resulting in further collapse. The axis of the anticline is a narrow generally flat-floored valley containing a few hills composed of downdropped Mesozoic rocks foundered, in the caprock. The caprock, which underlies thin alluvium in the valley, is composed of contorted gypsum, shale, sandstone, and limestone--the insoluble residue of the Paradox salt.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geology of the north end of the Salt Valley Anticline, Grand County, Utah