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Title: Theoretical foundation for measuring the groundwater age distribution.

In this study, we use PFLOTRAN, a highly scalable, parallel, flow and reactive transport code to simulate the concentrations of 3H, 3He, CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, SF6, 39Ar, 81Kr, 4He and themean groundwater age in heterogeneous fields on grids with an excess of 10 million nodes. We utilize this computational platform to simulate the concentration of multiple tracers in high-resolution, heterogeneous 2-D and 3-D domains, and calculate tracer-derived ages. Tracer-derived ages show systematic biases toward younger ages when the groundwater age distribution contains water older than the maximum tracer age. The deviation of the tracer-derived age distribution from the true groundwater age distribution increases with increasing heterogeneity of the system. However, the effect of heterogeneity is diminished as the mean travel time gets closer the tracer age limit. Age distributions in 3-D domains differ significantly from 2-D domains. 3D simulations show decreased mean age, and less variance in age distribution for identical heterogeneity statistics. High-performance computing allows for investigation of tracer and groundwater age systematics in high-resolution domains, providing a platform for understanding and utilizing environmental tracer and groundwater age information in heterogeneous 3-D systems. Groundwater environmental tracers can provide important constraints for the calibration of groundwater flow models. Direct simulationmore » of environmental tracer concentrations in models has the additional advantage of avoiding assumptions associated with using calculated groundwater age values. This study quantifies model uncertainty reduction resulting from the addition of environmental tracer concentration data. The analysis uses a synthetic heterogeneous aquifer and the calibration of a flow and transport model using the pilot point method. Results indicate a significant reduction in the uncertainty in permeability with the addition of environmental tracer data, relative to the use of hydraulic measurements alone. Anthropogenic tracers and their decay products, such as CFC11, 3H, and 3He, provide significant constraint oninput permeability values in the model. Tracer data for 39Ar provide even more complete information on the heterogeneity of permeability and variability in the flow system than the anthropogenic tracers, leading to greater parameter uncertainty reduction.« less
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DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Sandia National Laboratories (SNL-NM), Albuquerque, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
Country of Publication:
United States