A wide variety of geophysical methods were employed to study a proposed nuclear waste site at Syncline Ridge on the Nevada Test Site, Nev. The proposed site was believed to be a relatively undisturbed synclinal structure containing a thick argillite unit of Misslsslppian age, the Eleana Formation unit J, which would be the emplacement medium. Data acquisition for the geophysical studies was constrained because of rugged topography in a block of Tipplpah Limestone overlying the central part of the proposed site. This study employed gravity, magnetic, seismic refraction and reflection, and four distinct electrical methods to try and define the structural integrity and shape of the proposed repository medium. Detailed and regional gravity work revealed complex structure at the site. Magnetics helped only in identifying small areas of Tertiary volcanic rocks because of low magnetization of the rocks. Seismic refraction assisted in identifying near surface faulting and bedrock structure. Difficulty was experienced in obtaining good quality reflection data. This implied significant structural complexity but also revealed the principal features that were supported by other data. Electrical methods were used for fault identification and for mapping of a thick argillaceous unit of the Eleana Formation in which nuclear waste was to be emplaced.
The geophysical studies indicate that major faults along the axis of Syncline Ridge and on both margins have large vertical offsets displacing units so as not only to make mining difficult, but also providing potential paths for waste migration to underlying carbonate aquifers. The Eleana Formation appeared heterogeneous, which was inferred to be due to structural complexity. Only a small region in the northwest part of the study area was found to contain a thick and relatively undisturbed volume of host rock.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Geophysical studies of the Syncline Ridge area, Nevada Test Site, Nye County, Nevada