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Title: U-Pb Ages of Secondary Silica at Yucca Mountain, Nevada: Implications for the Paleohydrology of the Unsaturated Zone

Abstract

U, Th, and Pb isotopes were analyzed in layers of opal and chalcedony from individual millimeter- to centimeter-thick calcite and silica coatings at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, USA, a site that is being evaluated for a potential high-level nuclear waste repository. These calcite and silica coatings on fractures and in lithophysal cavities in Miocene-age tuffs in the unsaturated zone (UZ) precipitated from descending water and record a long history of percolation through the UZ. Opal and chalcedony have high concentrations of U (10 to 780 ppm) and low concentrations of common Pb as indicated by large values of {sup 206}Pb/{sup 204}Pb (up to 53,806), thus making them suitable for U-Pb age determinations. Interpretations of U-Pb isotopes in opal samples at Yucca Mountain are complicated by the incorporation of excess {sup 234}U at the time of mineral formation, resulting in reverse discordance of U-Pb ages. However, the {sup 207}Pb/{sup 235}U ages are much less affected by deviation from initial secular equilibrium and provide reliable ages of most silica deposits between 0.6 and 9.8 Ma. For chalcedony subsamples showing normal age discordance, these ages may represent minimum times of deposition. Typically, {sup 207}Pb/{sup 235}U ages are consistent with the microstratigraphy in the mineralmore » coating samples, such that the youngest ages are for subsamples from outer layers, intermediate ages are from inner layers, and oldest ages are from innermost layers. {sup 234}U and {sup 230}Th in most silica layers deeper in the coatings are in secular equilibrium with {sup 238}U, which is consistent with their old age and closed system behavior during the past 0.5 m.y. U-Pb ages for subsamples of silica layers from different microstratigraphic positions in individual calcite and silica coating samples collected from lithophysal cavities in the welded part of the Topopah Spring Tuff yield slow long-term average depositional rates of 1 to 5 mm/m.y. These data imply that the deeper parts of the UZ at Yucca Mountain maintained long-term hydrologic stability over the past 10 m.y. despite significant climate variations. U-Pb ages for subsamples of silica layers from different microstratigraphic positions in individual calcite and silica coating samples collected from fractures in the welded part of the overlying Tiva Canyon Tuff indicate larger long-term average depositional rates up to 23 mm/m.y. and an absence of recently deposited materials (ages of outermost layers are 3-5 Ma). These differences between the characteristics of the coatings for samples from the shallower and deeper parts of the UZ may indicate that the nonwelded tuffs (PTn), located between the welded parts of the Tiva Canyon and Topopah Spring Tuffs, play an important role in moderating UZ flow.« less

Authors:
; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Yucca Mountain Project, Las Vegas, Nevada (US)
Sponsoring Org.:
US Department of Energy (US)
OSTI Identifier:
805568
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Other Information: PBD: 20 Aug 2001
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE WASTES, AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; CALCITE; CAVITIES; CLIMATES; COATINGS; DEPOSITION; FRACTURES; OPALS; RADIOACTIVE WASTES; SILICA; STABILITY; TUFF; YUCCA MOUNTAIN

Citation Formats

Neymark, L A, Amelin, Y, Paces, J B, and Peterman, Z E. U-Pb Ages of Secondary Silica at Yucca Mountain, Nevada: Implications for the Paleohydrology of the Unsaturated Zone. United States: N. p., 2001. Web. doi:10.2172/805568.
Neymark, L A, Amelin, Y, Paces, J B, & Peterman, Z E. U-Pb Ages of Secondary Silica at Yucca Mountain, Nevada: Implications for the Paleohydrology of the Unsaturated Zone. United States. doi:10.2172/805568.
Neymark, L A, Amelin, Y, Paces, J B, and Peterman, Z E. Mon . "U-Pb Ages of Secondary Silica at Yucca Mountain, Nevada: Implications for the Paleohydrology of the Unsaturated Zone". United States. doi:10.2172/805568. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/805568.
@article{osti_805568,
title = {U-Pb Ages of Secondary Silica at Yucca Mountain, Nevada: Implications for the Paleohydrology of the Unsaturated Zone},
author = {Neymark, L A and Amelin, Y and Paces, J B and Peterman, Z E},
abstractNote = {U, Th, and Pb isotopes were analyzed in layers of opal and chalcedony from individual millimeter- to centimeter-thick calcite and silica coatings at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, USA, a site that is being evaluated for a potential high-level nuclear waste repository. These calcite and silica coatings on fractures and in lithophysal cavities in Miocene-age tuffs in the unsaturated zone (UZ) precipitated from descending water and record a long history of percolation through the UZ. Opal and chalcedony have high concentrations of U (10 to 780 ppm) and low concentrations of common Pb as indicated by large values of {sup 206}Pb/{sup 204}Pb (up to 53,806), thus making them suitable for U-Pb age determinations. Interpretations of U-Pb isotopes in opal samples at Yucca Mountain are complicated by the incorporation of excess {sup 234}U at the time of mineral formation, resulting in reverse discordance of U-Pb ages. However, the {sup 207}Pb/{sup 235}U ages are much less affected by deviation from initial secular equilibrium and provide reliable ages of most silica deposits between 0.6 and 9.8 Ma. For chalcedony subsamples showing normal age discordance, these ages may represent minimum times of deposition. Typically, {sup 207}Pb/{sup 235}U ages are consistent with the microstratigraphy in the mineral coating samples, such that the youngest ages are for subsamples from outer layers, intermediate ages are from inner layers, and oldest ages are from innermost layers. {sup 234}U and {sup 230}Th in most silica layers deeper in the coatings are in secular equilibrium with {sup 238}U, which is consistent with their old age and closed system behavior during the past 0.5 m.y. U-Pb ages for subsamples of silica layers from different microstratigraphic positions in individual calcite and silica coating samples collected from lithophysal cavities in the welded part of the Topopah Spring Tuff yield slow long-term average depositional rates of 1 to 5 mm/m.y. These data imply that the deeper parts of the UZ at Yucca Mountain maintained long-term hydrologic stability over the past 10 m.y. despite significant climate variations. U-Pb ages for subsamples of silica layers from different microstratigraphic positions in individual calcite and silica coating samples collected from fractures in the welded part of the overlying Tiva Canyon Tuff indicate larger long-term average depositional rates up to 23 mm/m.y. and an absence of recently deposited materials (ages of outermost layers are 3-5 Ma). These differences between the characteristics of the coatings for samples from the shallower and deeper parts of the UZ may indicate that the nonwelded tuffs (PTn), located between the welded parts of the Tiva Canyon and Topopah Spring Tuffs, play an important role in moderating UZ flow.},
doi = {10.2172/805568},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2001},
month = {8}
}