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Title: Modeling Aeolian Transport of Contaminated Sediments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Area 54, Area G: Sensitivities to Succession, Disturbance, and Future Climate

Abstract

The Technical Area 54 (TA-54) Area G disposal facility is used for the disposal of radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Order 435.1 (DOE, 2001) requires that radioactive waste be managed in a manner that protects public health and safety and the environment. In compliance with that requirement, DOE field sites must prepare and maintain site-specific radiological performance assessments for facilities that receive waste after September 26, 1988. Sites are also required to conduct composite analyses for facilities that receive waste after this date; these analyses account for the cumulative impacts of all waste that has been (and will be) disposed of at the facilities and other sources of radioactive material that may interact with these facilities. LANL issued Revision 4 of the Area G performance assessment and composite analysis in 2008. In support of those analyses, vertical and horizontal sediment flux data were collected at two analog sites, each with different dominant vegetation characteristics, and used to estimate rates of vertical resuspension and wind erosion for Area G. The results of that investigation indicated that there was no net loss of soil at the disposal site due to wind erosion, and suggestedmore » minimal impacts of wind on the long-term performance of the facility. However, that study did not evaluate the potential for contaminant transport caused by the horizontal movement of soil particles over long time frames. Since that time, additional field data have been collected to estimate wind threshold velocities for initiating sediment transport due to saltation and rates of sediment transport once those thresholds are reached. Data such as these have been used in the development of the Vegetation Modified Transport (VMTran) model. This model is designed to estimate patterns and long-term rates of contaminant redistribution caused by winds at the site, taking into account the impacts of plant succession and environmental disturbance. Aeolian, or wind-driven, sediment transport drives soil erosion, affects biogeochemical cycles, and can lead to the transport of contaminants. Rates of aeolian sediment transport depend in large part on the type, amount, and spatial pattern of vegetation. In particular, the amount of cover from trees and shrubs, which act as roughness elements, alters rates of aeolian sediment transport. The degree to which the understory is disturbed and the associated spacing of bare soil gaps further influence sediment transport rates. Changes in vegetation structure and patterns over periods of years to centuries may have profound impacts on rates of wind-driven transport. For recently disturbed areas, succession is likely to occur through a series of vegetation communities. Area G currently exhibits a mosaic of vegetation cover, with patches of grass and forbs over closed disposal units, and bare ground in heavily used portions of the site. These areas are surrounded by less disturbed regions of shrubland and pinon-juniper woodland; some ponderosa pine forest is also visible in the canyon along the road. The successional trajectory for the disturbed portions of Area G is expected to proceed from grasses and forbs (which would be established during site closure), to shrubs such as chamisa, to a climax community of pinon-juniper woodland. Although unlikely under current conditions, a ponderosa pine forest could develop over the site if the future climate is wetter. In many ecosystems, substantial and often periodic disturbances such as fire or severe drought can rapidly alter vegetation patterns. Such disturbances are likely to increase in the southwestern US where projections call for a warmer and drier climate. With respect to Area G, the 3 most likely disturbance types are surface fire, crown fire, and drought-induced tree mortality. Each type of disturbance has a different frequency or likelihood of occurrence, but all 3 tend to reset the vegetation succession cycle to earlier stages. The Area G performance assessment and composite analysis evaluate the impacts of disposing of radioactive waste over a period of hundreds to thousands of years. An assessment of aeolian sediment transport over this timeframe needs to account for the impacts of changes in vegetation structure and other surface conditions that occur under normal circumstances and as a result of environmental disturbance. Recent aeolian sediment transport studies undertaken in diverse dryland systems on both undisturbed and disturbed lands have yielded a suite of empirical measurements. These studies do not take into account changes in long-term conditions at the sites being investigated. Although studies of dune systems have begun to account for different types of vegetation due to succession and the effects of disturbance under current and projected climate, similar information for drylands that are not dominated by dunes is almost entirely lacking.« less

Authors:
 [1];  [2];  [3];  [3]
  1. Los Alamos National Laboratory
  2. New Mexico State University
  3. University of Arizona
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
DOE/LANL
OSTI Identifier:
1038119
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-12-20244
TRN: US1201888
DOE Contract Number:  
AC52-06NA25396
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE WASTES, AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; 54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; CLIMATES; COMMUNITIES; COMPLIANCE; DISTURBANCES; DROUGHTS; ECOSYSTEMS; FORESTS; GRAMINEAE; MORTALITY; PARTICLE RESUSPENSION; PINES; PLANTS; PUBLIC HEALTH; RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS; RADIOACTIVE WASTES; SAFETY; SEDIMENTS; SHRUBS; SOILS; TREES; WASTES

Citation Formats

Whicker, Jeffrey J, Kirchner, Thomas B, Breshears, David D, and Field, Jason P. Modeling Aeolian Transport of Contaminated Sediments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Area 54, Area G: Sensitivities to Succession, Disturbance, and Future Climate. United States: N. p., 2012. Web. doi:10.2172/1038119.
Whicker, Jeffrey J, Kirchner, Thomas B, Breshears, David D, & Field, Jason P. Modeling Aeolian Transport of Contaminated Sediments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Area 54, Area G: Sensitivities to Succession, Disturbance, and Future Climate. United States. doi:10.2172/1038119.
Whicker, Jeffrey J, Kirchner, Thomas B, Breshears, David D, and Field, Jason P. Tue . "Modeling Aeolian Transport of Contaminated Sediments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Area 54, Area G: Sensitivities to Succession, Disturbance, and Future Climate". United States. doi:10.2172/1038119. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1038119.
@article{osti_1038119,
title = {Modeling Aeolian Transport of Contaminated Sediments at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Technical Area 54, Area G: Sensitivities to Succession, Disturbance, and Future Climate},
author = {Whicker, Jeffrey J and Kirchner, Thomas B and Breshears, David D and Field, Jason P},
abstractNote = {The Technical Area 54 (TA-54) Area G disposal facility is used for the disposal of radioactive waste at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Order 435.1 (DOE, 2001) requires that radioactive waste be managed in a manner that protects public health and safety and the environment. In compliance with that requirement, DOE field sites must prepare and maintain site-specific radiological performance assessments for facilities that receive waste after September 26, 1988. Sites are also required to conduct composite analyses for facilities that receive waste after this date; these analyses account for the cumulative impacts of all waste that has been (and will be) disposed of at the facilities and other sources of radioactive material that may interact with these facilities. LANL issued Revision 4 of the Area G performance assessment and composite analysis in 2008. In support of those analyses, vertical and horizontal sediment flux data were collected at two analog sites, each with different dominant vegetation characteristics, and used to estimate rates of vertical resuspension and wind erosion for Area G. The results of that investigation indicated that there was no net loss of soil at the disposal site due to wind erosion, and suggested minimal impacts of wind on the long-term performance of the facility. However, that study did not evaluate the potential for contaminant transport caused by the horizontal movement of soil particles over long time frames. Since that time, additional field data have been collected to estimate wind threshold velocities for initiating sediment transport due to saltation and rates of sediment transport once those thresholds are reached. Data such as these have been used in the development of the Vegetation Modified Transport (VMTran) model. This model is designed to estimate patterns and long-term rates of contaminant redistribution caused by winds at the site, taking into account the impacts of plant succession and environmental disturbance. Aeolian, or wind-driven, sediment transport drives soil erosion, affects biogeochemical cycles, and can lead to the transport of contaminants. Rates of aeolian sediment transport depend in large part on the type, amount, and spatial pattern of vegetation. In particular, the amount of cover from trees and shrubs, which act as roughness elements, alters rates of aeolian sediment transport. The degree to which the understory is disturbed and the associated spacing of bare soil gaps further influence sediment transport rates. Changes in vegetation structure and patterns over periods of years to centuries may have profound impacts on rates of wind-driven transport. For recently disturbed areas, succession is likely to occur through a series of vegetation communities. Area G currently exhibits a mosaic of vegetation cover, with patches of grass and forbs over closed disposal units, and bare ground in heavily used portions of the site. These areas are surrounded by less disturbed regions of shrubland and pinon-juniper woodland; some ponderosa pine forest is also visible in the canyon along the road. The successional trajectory for the disturbed portions of Area G is expected to proceed from grasses and forbs (which would be established during site closure), to shrubs such as chamisa, to a climax community of pinon-juniper woodland. Although unlikely under current conditions, a ponderosa pine forest could develop over the site if the future climate is wetter. In many ecosystems, substantial and often periodic disturbances such as fire or severe drought can rapidly alter vegetation patterns. Such disturbances are likely to increase in the southwestern US where projections call for a warmer and drier climate. With respect to Area G, the 3 most likely disturbance types are surface fire, crown fire, and drought-induced tree mortality. Each type of disturbance has a different frequency or likelihood of occurrence, but all 3 tend to reset the vegetation succession cycle to earlier stages. The Area G performance assessment and composite analysis evaluate the impacts of disposing of radioactive waste over a period of hundreds to thousands of years. An assessment of aeolian sediment transport over this timeframe needs to account for the impacts of changes in vegetation structure and other surface conditions that occur under normal circumstances and as a result of environmental disturbance. Recent aeolian sediment transport studies undertaken in diverse dryland systems on both undisturbed and disturbed lands have yielded a suite of empirical measurements. These studies do not take into account changes in long-term conditions at the sites being investigated. Although studies of dune systems have begun to account for different types of vegetation due to succession and the effects of disturbance under current and projected climate, similar information for drylands that are not dominated by dunes is almost entirely lacking.},
doi = {10.2172/1038119},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2012},
month = {3}
}

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