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Title: Anthropogenic influences on groundwater in the vicinity of a long-lived radioactive waste repository: Anthropogenic influences on groundwater

Abstract

The groundwater flow system in the Culebra Dolomite Member (Culebra) of the Permian Rustler Formation is a potential radionuclide release pathway from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the only deep geological repository for transuranic waste in the United States. We did not expect that early conceptual models of the Culebra, groundwater levels would fluctuate markedly, except in response to long-term climatic changes, with response times on the order of hundreds to thousands of years. Recent groundwater pressures measured in monitoring wells record more than 25 m of drawdown. The fluctuations are attributed to pumping activities at a privately-owned well that may be associated with the demand of the Permian Basin hydrocarbon industry for water. Furthermore, the unprecedented magnitude of drawdown provides an opportunity to quantitatively assess the influence of unplanned anthropogenic forcings near the WIPP. Spatially variable realizations of Culebra saturated hydraulic conductivity and storativity were used to develop groundwater flow models to estimate a pumping rate for the private well and investigate its effect on advective transport. Simulated drawdown shows reasonable agreement with observations (average Model Efficiency coefficient = 0.7). Steepened hydraulic gradients associated with the pumping reduce estimates of conservative particle travel times across the domain bymore » one-half and shift the intersection of the average particle track with the compliance boundary by more than two kilometers. Finally, the value of the transient simulations conducted for this study lie in their ability to (i) improve understanding of the Culebra groundwater flow system and (ii) challenge the notion of time-invariant land use in the vicinity of the WIPP.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [2];  [3]
  1. Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Carlsbad, NM (United States); U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO (United States)
  2. Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
  3. U.S. Dept. of Energy, Carlsbad, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Sandia National Lab. (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA); USDOE Office of Environmental Management (EM)
OSTI Identifier:
1356862
Report Number(s):
SAND2017-4624J
Journal ID: ISSN 0885-6087; 652966
Grant/Contract Number:
AC04-94AL85000
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Hydrological Processes
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 31; Journal Issue: 14; Journal ID: ISSN 0885-6087
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; 12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES

Citation Formats

Thomas, Matthew A., Kuhlman, Kristopher L., and Ward, Anderson L. Anthropogenic influences on groundwater in the vicinity of a long-lived radioactive waste repository: Anthropogenic influences on groundwater. United States: N. p., 2017. Web. doi:10.1002/hyp.11214.
Thomas, Matthew A., Kuhlman, Kristopher L., & Ward, Anderson L. Anthropogenic influences on groundwater in the vicinity of a long-lived radioactive waste repository: Anthropogenic influences on groundwater. United States. doi:10.1002/hyp.11214.
Thomas, Matthew A., Kuhlman, Kristopher L., and Ward, Anderson L. Tue . "Anthropogenic influences on groundwater in the vicinity of a long-lived radioactive waste repository: Anthropogenic influences on groundwater". United States. doi:10.1002/hyp.11214. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1356862.
@article{osti_1356862,
title = {Anthropogenic influences on groundwater in the vicinity of a long-lived radioactive waste repository: Anthropogenic influences on groundwater},
author = {Thomas, Matthew A. and Kuhlman, Kristopher L. and Ward, Anderson L.},
abstractNote = {The groundwater flow system in the Culebra Dolomite Member (Culebra) of the Permian Rustler Formation is a potential radionuclide release pathway from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the only deep geological repository for transuranic waste in the United States. We did not expect that early conceptual models of the Culebra, groundwater levels would fluctuate markedly, except in response to long-term climatic changes, with response times on the order of hundreds to thousands of years. Recent groundwater pressures measured in monitoring wells record more than 25 m of drawdown. The fluctuations are attributed to pumping activities at a privately-owned well that may be associated with the demand of the Permian Basin hydrocarbon industry for water. Furthermore, the unprecedented magnitude of drawdown provides an opportunity to quantitatively assess the influence of unplanned anthropogenic forcings near the WIPP. Spatially variable realizations of Culebra saturated hydraulic conductivity and storativity were used to develop groundwater flow models to estimate a pumping rate for the private well and investigate its effect on advective transport. Simulated drawdown shows reasonable agreement with observations (average Model Efficiency coefficient = 0.7). Steepened hydraulic gradients associated with the pumping reduce estimates of conservative particle travel times across the domain by one-half and shift the intersection of the average particle track with the compliance boundary by more than two kilometers. Finally, the value of the transient simulations conducted for this study lie in their ability to (i) improve understanding of the Culebra groundwater flow system and (ii) challenge the notion of time-invariant land use in the vicinity of the WIPP.},
doi = {10.1002/hyp.11214},
journal = {Hydrological Processes},
number = 14,
volume = 31,
place = {United States},
year = {Tue Apr 25 00:00:00 EDT 2017},
month = {Tue Apr 25 00:00:00 EDT 2017}
}

Journal Article:
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  • Current laws in the United States of America (USA) direct the US Department of Energy (DOE) to site, design, operate, and decommission a deep geological repository for safe disposal of transuranic radioactive waste (TRUW) at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) site. In 1992, the U.S. Congress withdrew land from public use and set it aside for the WIPP site and appointed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as the regulator for safe disposal of TRUW. In 1993, the DOE established the Carlsbad Area Office (CAO) to integrate the nation`s management of TRUW and to open the WIPP site formore » safe disposal of TRUW in compliance with applicable laws and regulations. The CAO is on schedule to submit the final compliance certification application (CCA) in October 1996 and to open WIPP in April 1998, about three years earlier than scheduled before the establishment of the CAO. Detailed planning, compliance-based research and development (R&D), teamwork among project participants, and early and open iterative interactions with the regulators, oversight groups and other interested parties in the certification/permitting process are key components of this progress. Albeit unique domestic components are involved in the WIPP process, and challenges to the timely opening remain (e.g., evolving regulations and potential lawsuits), the lessons learned at the WIPP to date contribute to solving the remaining current global societal challenge of the nuclear energy cycle, i.e., the safe disposal of long-lived radioactive waste.« less
  • An overwhelming majority of both chambers of the French Parliament voted in favor of Public Law 91-1381 on December 30, 1991, which outlines the research program to be conducted for disposal of long-lived waste. The program focuses on three main research objectives: reduction of waste volumes and toxicity (advanced partitioning and transmutation); assessment of the waste isolation properties of deep geologic formations; and development of solidification processes and storage techniques for long-term interim storage in near-surface facilities. Annual reports on this research will be reviewed by a national commission and submitted to Parliament. Within 15 years, the government will preparemore » a comprehensive report and may enact new legislation authorizing the creation of a repository. The Waste Act also establishes the conditions for siting underground geologic research laboratories; site selection, public information and monitoring procedures; and economic incentives related to these facilities, which represent major financial investments that will benefit communities in the involved regions.« less
  • An overview is given of the research carried out by the French Atomic Energy Commission on the geological disposal of nuclear waste. Recalling the new legal framework of these studies, the specific methodology of this field, which relies on the association of laboratory and in situ experiments, natural analogues, and modeling is emphasized. Next are underlined the basic questions, which have to be reliably answered when one wants to predict the behavior of the repository and the fate of the most radiotoxic nuclides, in particular over very long time spans: What parameters govern the hydrodynamics and the geochemistry of themore » system? What are the processes controlling the degradation of the different technological and natural barriers, as well as the release, migration, and retardation of radionuclides through the geosphere? For each of these issues, the current programs of research are described and indications are given about significant achievements.« less
  • To comply with the regulations laid down by the French safety authorities for a national surface disposal site, one must obtain a good evaluation of the activity of the long-lived nuclides in each individual package. Because this cannot be done on a routine basis by direct nondestructive measurements, experiments are being conducted in France to calculate the activity of long-lived nuclides from the measured activity of key nuclides ({sup 60}Co and {sup 137}Cs). This is achieved through the use of scaling factors and correlation functions that are calculated from the analysis of a limited number of representative waste samples. Themore » first results obtained for some typical French pressurized water reactor radioactive wastes, including ion-exchange resins, evaporator concentrates, and filter cartridges, are presented. Significant correlations are observed for the {sup 63}Ni/{sup 60}Co and {sup 94}Nb/{sup 60}Co nuclide pairs, while {sup 14}C does not seem to correlate with {sup 60}Co. A good correlation between {sup 137}Cs and {sup 90}Sr is established for resins, while in the case of filters, only a tendency to correlation appears. This evaluation work is only at a preliminary stage, and much improvement of the results presented here is expected from research programs being carried out in this field by Electricite de France, commissariat a l`Energie Atomique, and the French National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management in cooperation with the Commission of the European Communities.« less