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Title: Soils Activity Mobility Study: Methodology and Application

This report presents a three-level approach for estimation of sediment transport to provide an assessment of potential erosion risk for sites at the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) that are posted for radiological purposes and where migration is suspected or known to occur due to storm runoff. Based on the assessed risk, the appropriate level of effort can be determined for analysis of radiological surveys, field experiments to quantify erosion and transport rates, and long-term monitoring. The method is demonstrated at contaminated sites, including Plutonium Valley, Shasta, Smoky, and T-1. The Pacific Southwest Interagency Committee (PSIAC) procedure is selected as the Level 1 analysis tool. The PSIAC method provides an estimation of the total annual sediment yield based on factors derived from the climatic and physical characteristics of a watershed. If the results indicate low risk, then further analysis is not warranted. If the Level 1 analysis indicates high risk or is deemed uncertain, a Level 2 analysis using the Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation (MUSLE) is proposed. In addition, if a sediment yield for a storm event rather than an annual sediment yield is needed, then the proposed Level 2 analysis should be performed. MUSLE only provides sheet andmore » rill erosion estimates. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center-Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS) provides storm peak runoff rate and storm volumes, the inputs necessary for MUSLE. Channel Sediment Transport (CHAN-SED) I and II models are proposed for estimating sediment deposition or erosion in a channel reach from a storm event. These models require storm hydrograph associated sediment concentration and bed load particle size distribution data. When the Level 2 analysis indicates high risk for sediment yield and associated contaminant migration or when there is high uncertainty in the Level 2 results, the sites can be further evaluated with a Level 3 analysis using more complex and labor- and data-intensive methods. For the watersheds analyzed in this report using the Level 1 PSIAC method, the risk of erosion is low. The field reconnaissance surveys of these watersheds confirm the conclusion that the sediment yield of undisturbed areas at the NNSS would be low. The climate, geology, soils, ground cover, land use, and runoff potential are similar among these watersheds. There are no well-defined ephemeral channels except at the Smoky and Plutonium Valley sites. Topography seems to have the strongest influence on sediment yields, as sediment yields are higher on the steeper hill slopes. Lack of measured sediment yield data at the NNSS does not allow for a direct evaluation of the yield estimates by the PSIAC method. Level 2 MUSLE estimates in all the analyzed watersheds except Shasta are a small percentage of the estimates from PSIAC because MUSLE is not inclusive of channel erosion. This indicates that channel erosion dominates the total sediment yield in these watersheds. Annual sediment yields for these watersheds are estimated using the CHAN-SEDI and CHAN-SEDII channel sediment transport models. Both transport models give similar results and exceed the estimates obtained from PSIAC and MUSLE. It is recommended that the total watershed sediment yield of watersheds at the NNSS with flow channels be obtained by adding the washload estimate (rill and inter-rill erosion) from MUSLE to that obtained from channel transport models (bed load and suspended sediment). PSIAC will give comparable results if factor scores for channel erosion are revised towards the high erosion level. Application of the Level 3 process-based models to estimate sediment yields at the NNSS cannot be recommended at this time. Increased model complexity alone will not improve the certainty of the sediment yield estimates. Models must be calibrated against measured data before model results are accepted as certain. Because no measurements of sediment yields at the NNSS are available, model validation cannot be performed. This is also true for the models used in the Level 2 analyses presented in this study. The need to calibrate MUSLE to local conditions has been discussed. Likewise, the transport equations of CHAN-SEDI and CHAN-SEDII need to be calibrated against local data to assess their applicability under semi-arid conditions and for the ephemeral channels at the NNSS. Before these validations and calibration exercises can be undertaken, a long-term measured sediment yield data set must be developed. Development of long-term measured sediment yield data cannot be overemphasized. Long-term monitoring is essential for accurate characterization of watershed processes. It is recommended that a long-term monitoring program be set up to measure watershed erosion rates and channel sediment transport rates.« less
Publication Date:
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Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Nevada Test Site/National Security Technologies, LLC (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States