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Title: Modeling Groundwater Flow and Transport of Radionuclides at Amchitka Island's Underground Nuclear Tests: Milrow, Long Shot, and Cannikin

Abstract

Since 1963, all United States nuclear tests have been conducted underground. A consequence of this testing has been the deposition of large amounts of radioactive material in the subsurface, sometimes in direct contact with groundwater. The majority of this testing occurred on the Nevada Test Site (NTS), but a limited number of experiments were conducted in other locations. One of these locations, Amchitka Island, Alaska is the subject of this report. Three underground nuclear tests were conducted on Amchitka Island. Long Shot was an 80-kiloton-yield test conducted at a depth of 700 meters (m) on October 29, 1965 (DOE, 2000). Milrow had an announced yield of about 1,000 kilotons, and was detonated at a depth of 1,220 m on October 2, 1969. Cannikin had an announced yield less than 5,000 kilotons, and was conducted at a depth of 1,790 m on November 6, 1971. The purpose of this work is to provide a portion of the information needed to conduct a human-health risk assessment of the potential hazard posed by the three underground nuclear tests on Amchitka Island. Specifically, the focus of this work is the subsurface transport portion, including the release of radionuclides from the underground cavities and theirmore » movement through the groundwater system to the point where they seep out of the ocean floor and into the marine environment. This requires a conceptual model of groundwater flow on the island using geologic, hydrologic, and chemical information, a numerical model for groundwater flow, a conceptual model of contaminant release and transport properties from the nuclear test cavities, and a numerical model for contaminant transport. Needed for the risk assessment are estimates of the quantity of radionuclides (in terms of mass flux) from the underground tests on Amchitka that could discharge to the ocean, the time of possible discharge, and the location in terms of distance from shoreline. The radionuclide data presented here are all reported in terms of normalized masses to avoid presenting classified information. As only linear processes are modeled, the results can be readily scaled by the true classified masses for use in the risk assessment. The modeling timeframe for the risk assessment was set at 1,000 years, though some calculations are extended to 2,000 years. This first section of the report endeavors to orient the reader with the environment of Amchitka and the specifics of the underground nuclear tests. Of prime importance are the geologic and hydrologic conditions of the subsurface. A conceptual model for groundwater flow beneath the island is then developed and paired with an appropriate numerical modeling approach in section 2. The parameters needed for the model, supporting data for them, and data uncertainties are discussed at length. The calibration of the three flow models (one for each test) is then presented. At this point the conceptual radionuclide transport model is introduced and its numerical approach described in section 3. Again, the transport parameters and their supporting data and uncertainties are the focus. With all of the processes and parameters in place, the first major modeling phase can be discussed in section 4. In this phase, a parametric uncertainty analysis is performed to determine the sensitivity of the transport modeling results to the uncertainties present in the parameters. This analysis is motivated by the recognition of substantial uncertainty in the subsurface conditions on the island and the need to incorporate that uncertainty into the modeling. The conclusion of the first phase determines the parameters to hold as uncertain through the main flow and transport modeling. This second, main phase of modeling is presented in section 5, with the contaminant breakthrough behavior of each test site addressed. This is followed by a sensitivity analysis in section 6, regarding the importance of additional processes that could not be supported in the main modeling effort due to lack of data. Finally, the results for the individual sites are compared, the sensitivities discussed, and final conclusions presented in section 7.« less

Authors:
; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Desert Research Institute, University and Community College System of Nevada (US)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Environmental Management (EM) (US)
OSTI Identifier:
806659
Report Number(s):
DOE/NV/11508-51; DRI pub. no. 45172
TRN: US200307%%145
DOE Contract Number:  
AC08-95NV11508
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Resource Relation:
Other Information: Supercedes report DE00806659; PBD: 19 Nov 2002; PBD: 19 Nov 2002
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
98 NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT, SAFEGUARDS, AND PHYSICAL PROTECTION; AMCHITKA ISLAND AREA; CLASSIFIED INFORMATION; DEPOSITION; FLOW MODELS; GROUND WATER; NEVADA TEST SITE; RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS; RADIOISOTOPES; RISK ASSESSMENT; SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS; UNDERGROUND EXPLOSIONS

Citation Formats

Hassan, Ahmed, Pohlmann, Karl, and Chapman, Jenny. Modeling Groundwater Flow and Transport of Radionuclides at Amchitka Island's Underground Nuclear Tests: Milrow, Long Shot, and Cannikin. United States: N. p., 2002. Web. doi:10.2172/806659.
Hassan, Ahmed, Pohlmann, Karl, & Chapman, Jenny. Modeling Groundwater Flow and Transport of Radionuclides at Amchitka Island's Underground Nuclear Tests: Milrow, Long Shot, and Cannikin. United States. doi:10.2172/806659.
Hassan, Ahmed, Pohlmann, Karl, and Chapman, Jenny. Tue . "Modeling Groundwater Flow and Transport of Radionuclides at Amchitka Island's Underground Nuclear Tests: Milrow, Long Shot, and Cannikin". United States. doi:10.2172/806659. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/806659.
@article{osti_806659,
title = {Modeling Groundwater Flow and Transport of Radionuclides at Amchitka Island's Underground Nuclear Tests: Milrow, Long Shot, and Cannikin},
author = {Hassan, Ahmed and Pohlmann, Karl and Chapman, Jenny},
abstractNote = {Since 1963, all United States nuclear tests have been conducted underground. A consequence of this testing has been the deposition of large amounts of radioactive material in the subsurface, sometimes in direct contact with groundwater. The majority of this testing occurred on the Nevada Test Site (NTS), but a limited number of experiments were conducted in other locations. One of these locations, Amchitka Island, Alaska is the subject of this report. Three underground nuclear tests were conducted on Amchitka Island. Long Shot was an 80-kiloton-yield test conducted at a depth of 700 meters (m) on October 29, 1965 (DOE, 2000). Milrow had an announced yield of about 1,000 kilotons, and was detonated at a depth of 1,220 m on October 2, 1969. Cannikin had an announced yield less than 5,000 kilotons, and was conducted at a depth of 1,790 m on November 6, 1971. The purpose of this work is to provide a portion of the information needed to conduct a human-health risk assessment of the potential hazard posed by the three underground nuclear tests on Amchitka Island. Specifically, the focus of this work is the subsurface transport portion, including the release of radionuclides from the underground cavities and their movement through the groundwater system to the point where they seep out of the ocean floor and into the marine environment. This requires a conceptual model of groundwater flow on the island using geologic, hydrologic, and chemical information, a numerical model for groundwater flow, a conceptual model of contaminant release and transport properties from the nuclear test cavities, and a numerical model for contaminant transport. Needed for the risk assessment are estimates of the quantity of radionuclides (in terms of mass flux) from the underground tests on Amchitka that could discharge to the ocean, the time of possible discharge, and the location in terms of distance from shoreline. The radionuclide data presented here are all reported in terms of normalized masses to avoid presenting classified information. As only linear processes are modeled, the results can be readily scaled by the true classified masses for use in the risk assessment. The modeling timeframe for the risk assessment was set at 1,000 years, though some calculations are extended to 2,000 years. This first section of the report endeavors to orient the reader with the environment of Amchitka and the specifics of the underground nuclear tests. Of prime importance are the geologic and hydrologic conditions of the subsurface. A conceptual model for groundwater flow beneath the island is then developed and paired with an appropriate numerical modeling approach in section 2. The parameters needed for the model, supporting data for them, and data uncertainties are discussed at length. The calibration of the three flow models (one for each test) is then presented. At this point the conceptual radionuclide transport model is introduced and its numerical approach described in section 3. Again, the transport parameters and their supporting data and uncertainties are the focus. With all of the processes and parameters in place, the first major modeling phase can be discussed in section 4. In this phase, a parametric uncertainty analysis is performed to determine the sensitivity of the transport modeling results to the uncertainties present in the parameters. This analysis is motivated by the recognition of substantial uncertainty in the subsurface conditions on the island and the need to incorporate that uncertainty into the modeling. The conclusion of the first phase determines the parameters to hold as uncertain through the main flow and transport modeling. This second, main phase of modeling is presented in section 5, with the contaminant breakthrough behavior of each test site addressed. This is followed by a sensitivity analysis in section 6, regarding the importance of additional processes that could not be supported in the main modeling effort due to lack of data. Finally, the results for the individual sites are compared, the sensitivities discussed, and final conclusions presented in section 7.},
doi = {10.2172/806659},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {2002},
month = {11}
}