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Title: Scale-Dependent Fracture-Matrix Interactions and Their Impact on Radionuclide Transport: Development of efficient particle-tracking methods

Matrix Diffusion and Adsorption within a rock matrix are important mechanisms for retarding transport of radionuclides in fractured rock. Due to computational limitations and difficulties in characterizing complex subsurface systems, diffusive exchange between a fracture network and surrounding rock matrix is often modeled using simplified conceptual representations. There is significant uncertainty in “effective” parameters used in these models, such as the “effective matrix diffusivity”. Often, these parameters are estimated by fitting sparse breakthrough data, and estimated values fall outside meaningful ranges, because simplified interpretive models do not consider complex three-dimensional flow. There is limited understanding of the relationship between the effective parameters and rock mass characteristics including network structure and matrix properties. There is also evidence for an apparent scale-dependence in “effective matrix diffusion” coefficients. These observations raise questions on whether fracture-matrix interaction parameters estimated from small-scale tracer tests can be used for predicting radionuclide fate and transport at the scale of DOE field sites. High-resolution three-dimensional Discrete-Fracture-Network-Matrix (DFNM) models based on well-defined local scale transport equations can help to address some of these questions. Due to tremendous advances in computational technology over the last 10 years, DFNM modeling in relatively large domains is now feasible. The overarching objective ofmore » our research is to use DFNM modeling to improve fundamental understanding of how effective parameters in conceptual models are related to fracture network structure and matrix properties. An advanced three-dimensional DFNM model is being developed, which combines upscaled particle-tracking algorithms for fracture-matrix interaction and a parallel fracture-network flow simulator. The particle-tracking algorithms allow complexity in flow fields at different scales, and track transport across fracture-matrix interfaces based on rigorous local approximations to the transport equations. This modeling approach can incorporate aperture variability, multi-scale preferential flow and matrix heterogeneity. We developed efficient particle-tracking methods for handling matrix diffusion and adsorption on fracture walls and demonstrated their efficiency for use within the context of large-scale complex fracture network models with variability in apertures across a network of fractures and within individual fractures.« less
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  1. University of Colorado, Boulder
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
University of Colorado, Boulder
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Contributing Orgs:
University of Colorado, Boulder; University of California, Irvine
Country of Publication:
United States