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Title: THE PENA BLANCA NATURAL ANALOGUE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT MODEL

Abstract

The Nopal I uranium mine in the Sierra Pena Blanca, Chihuahua, Mexico serves as a natural analogue to the Yucca Mountain repository. The Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Performance Assessment Model simulates the mobilization and transport of radionuclides that are released from the mine and transported to the saturated zone. the Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Model uses probabilistic simulations of hydrogeologic processes that are analogous to the processes that occur at the Yucca Mountain site. The Nopal I uranium deposit lies in fractured, welded, and altered rhyolitic ash flow tuffs that overlie carbonate rocks, a setting analogous to the geologic formations at the Yucca Mountain site. The Nopal I mine site has the following characteristics as compared to the Yucca Mountain repository site. (1) Analogous source: UO{sub 2} uranium ore deposit = spent nuclear fuel in the repository; (2) Analogous geologic setting: fractured, welded, and altered rhyolitic ash flow tuffs overlying carbonate rocks; (3) Analogous climate: Semiarid to arid; (4) Analogous geochemistry: Oxidizing conditions; and (5) Analogous hydrogeology: The ore deposit lies in the unsaturated zone above the water table. The Nopal I deposit is approximately 8 {+-} 0.5 million years old and has been exposed to oxidizing conditions during themore » last 3.2 to 3.4 million years. The Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Model considers that the uranium oxide and uranium silicates in the ore deposit were originally analogous to uranium-oxide spent nuclear fuel. The Pena Blanca site has been characterized using field and laboratory investigations of its fault and fracture distribution, mineralogy, fracture fillings, seepage into the mine adits, regional hydrology, and mineralization that shows the extent of radionuclide migration. Three boreholes were drilled at the Nopal I mine site in 2003 and these boreholes have provided samples for lithologic characterization, water-level measurements, and water samples for laboratory analysis of the saturated zone water chemistry. The results of the field investigations and laboratory analyses of rock and water samples collected at Nopal I are used to calibrate the Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Model.« less

Authors:
;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Yucca Mountain Project, Las Vegas, Nevada
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
884903
Report Number(s):
NA
MOL.20060404.0034, DC#47356; TRN: US0603712
DOE Contract Number:
NA
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
11 NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE AND FUEL MATERIALS; 12 MANAGEMENT OF RADIOACTIVE WASTES, AND NON-RADIOACTIVE WASTES FROM NUCLEAR FACILITIES; CARBONATE ROCKS; GEOLOGIC FORMATIONS; NATURAL ANALOGUE; NUCLEAR FUELS; PERFORMANCE; RADIOISOTOPES; RADIONUCLIDE MIGRATION; URANIUM DEPOSITS; URANIUM MINES; URANIUM ORES; URANIUM OXIDES; URANIUM SILICATES; WATER CHEMISTRY; WATER TABLES; YUCCA MOUNTAIN

Citation Formats

G.J. Saulnier Jr, and W. Statham. THE PENA BLANCA NATURAL ANALOGUE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT MODEL. United States: N. p., 2006. Web. doi:10.2172/884903.
G.J. Saulnier Jr, & W. Statham. THE PENA BLANCA NATURAL ANALOGUE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT MODEL. United States. doi:10.2172/884903.
G.J. Saulnier Jr, and W. Statham. Fri . "THE PENA BLANCA NATURAL ANALOGUE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT MODEL". United States. doi:10.2172/884903. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/884903.
@article{osti_884903,
title = {THE PENA BLANCA NATURAL ANALOGUE PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT MODEL},
author = {G.J. Saulnier Jr and W. Statham},
abstractNote = {The Nopal I uranium mine in the Sierra Pena Blanca, Chihuahua, Mexico serves as a natural analogue to the Yucca Mountain repository. The Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Performance Assessment Model simulates the mobilization and transport of radionuclides that are released from the mine and transported to the saturated zone. the Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Model uses probabilistic simulations of hydrogeologic processes that are analogous to the processes that occur at the Yucca Mountain site. The Nopal I uranium deposit lies in fractured, welded, and altered rhyolitic ash flow tuffs that overlie carbonate rocks, a setting analogous to the geologic formations at the Yucca Mountain site. The Nopal I mine site has the following characteristics as compared to the Yucca Mountain repository site. (1) Analogous source: UO{sub 2} uranium ore deposit = spent nuclear fuel in the repository; (2) Analogous geologic setting: fractured, welded, and altered rhyolitic ash flow tuffs overlying carbonate rocks; (3) Analogous climate: Semiarid to arid; (4) Analogous geochemistry: Oxidizing conditions; and (5) Analogous hydrogeology: The ore deposit lies in the unsaturated zone above the water table. The Nopal I deposit is approximately 8 {+-} 0.5 million years old and has been exposed to oxidizing conditions during the last 3.2 to 3.4 million years. The Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Model considers that the uranium oxide and uranium silicates in the ore deposit were originally analogous to uranium-oxide spent nuclear fuel. The Pena Blanca site has been characterized using field and laboratory investigations of its fault and fracture distribution, mineralogy, fracture fillings, seepage into the mine adits, regional hydrology, and mineralization that shows the extent of radionuclide migration. Three boreholes were drilled at the Nopal I mine site in 2003 and these boreholes have provided samples for lithologic characterization, water-level measurements, and water samples for laboratory analysis of the saturated zone water chemistry. The results of the field investigations and laboratory analyses of rock and water samples collected at Nopal I are used to calibrate the Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Model.},
doi = {10.2172/884903},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Mar 10 00:00:00 EST 2006},
month = {Fri Mar 10 00:00:00 EST 2006}
}

Technical Report:

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  • The Nopal I uranium mine in the Sierra Pena Blanca, Chihuahua, Mexico serves as a natural analogue to the Yucca Mountain repository. The Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Performance Assessment Model simulates the mobilization and transport of radionuclides that are released from the mine and transported to the saturated zone. The Pena Blanca Natural Analogue Performance Assessment Model uses probabilistic simulations of hydrogeologic processes that are analogous to the processes that occur at the Yucca Mountain site. The Nopal I uranium deposit lies in fractured, welded, and altered rhyolitic ash-flow tuffs that overlie carbonate rocks, a setting analogous to the geologicmore » formations at the Yucca Mountain site. The Nopal I mine site has the following analogous characteristics as compared to the Yucca Mountain repository site: (1) Analogous source--UO{sub 2} uranium ore deposit = spent nuclear fuel in the repository; (2) Analogous geology--(i.e. fractured, welded, and altered rhyolitic ash-flow tuffs); (3) Analogous climate--Semiarid to arid; (4) Analogous setting--Volcanic tuffs overlie carbonate rocks; and (5) Analogous geochemistry--Oxidizing conditions Analogous hydrogeology: The ore deposit lies in the unsaturated zone above the water table.« less
  • No abstract prepared.
  • Natural analogs provide a line of evidence that supports the understanding of how natural and engineered processes would occur over long time frames and large spatial scales at a potential nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Studies of U-series disequilibria within and around uranium deposits can provide valuable information on the timing of actinide mobility and hence the stability of a potential repository over geologic time scales. The Nopal I uranium deposit at Pena Blanca, Mexico, is situated in unsaturated tuff that is similar in composition to the Topopah Spring Tuff of Yucca Mountain and closely matches other evaluationmore » criteria for suitable natural analogs. By modeling the observed radioactive isotope disequilibria at Nopal I, we can estimate the rates of sorption-desorption and dissolution-precipitation of the radionuclides over time. Such information is vital to the testing or validation of performance assessment models for geologic nuclear waste disposal.« less
  • The significance of the Pena Blanca uranium deposits in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico as potential natural analogs for a nuclear waste repository in unsaturated welded tuff was first recognized in the 1980s. In the 1970s, the Pena Blanca region was a major target of uranium exploration and exploitation by the Mexican government. Since then the Nopal I uranium deposit has been studied extensively by researchers in the U.S., Mexico, and Europe. The Nopal I deposit represents an environment similar to that of the proposed high-level radioactive waste repository at Yucca Mountain in many ways. Both are located in semi-aridmore » regions. Both are located in Tertiary rhyolitic tuffs overlying carbonate rocks that have been subjected to basin and range-style tectonic deformation. Both are located in a chemically oxidizing, unsaturated zone 200 m or more above the water table. The alteration of uraninite to secondary minerals at Nopal I may be similar to the alteration of uranium fuel rods in this type of setting. Investigations at Nopal I and in the surrounding Sierra Pena Blanca have included detailed outcrop mapping, hydrologic and isotopic studies of flow and transport, studies of mineral alteration, modeling, and performance assessment.« less
  • The Pena Blanca natural analog is located in the Sierra Pena Blanca, approximately 50 miles north of Chihuahua City, Mexico. The Sierra Pena Blanca is composed mainly of ash-flow tuffs, and the uranium in the region is contained in the brecciated zones of these tuffs. The Pena Blanca site is considered a natural analog to the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository because they share similar characteristics of structure, volcanic lithology, tectonic activity, and hydrologic regime. One of the mineralized zones, the Nopal I deposit, was mined in the early 1980s and the ore was stockpiled close to the mine.more » This stockpile area has subsequently been cleared and is referred to as the prior high-grade stockpile (PHGS) site. Soil surrounding boulders of high-grade ore associated with the PHGS site have been sampled. The purpose of this study is to characterize the transport of uranium series radioisotopes from the boulder to the soil during the past 25 years. Transport is characterized by determining the activities of individual radionuclides and daughter to parent ratios. The daughter to parent ratios are used to establish whether the samples are in secular equilibrium. Activities are determined using gamma-ray spectroscopy. Isotopes of the uranium series decay chain detected by gamma-ray spectroscopy include {sup 210}Pb, {sup 234}U, {sup 234}Th, {sup 230}Th, {sup 226}Ra, {sup 214}Pb, {sup 214}Bi, and {sup 234}Pa. Preliminary results indicate that some daughter to parent pairs appear to be in secular disequilibrium. Thorium is in excess relative to uranium, and radium is in excess relative to thorium. A deficiency appears to exist for {sup 210}Pb relative to {sup 214}Bi and {sup 214}Pb. If these results are borne out by further analysis, they would suggest transport of nuclides from the high-grade boulder into its surroundings, followed by continued leaching of uranium and lead from the environment.« less