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Title: Enhanced Cover Assessment Project:Soil Manipulation and Revegetation Tests

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management is evaluating methods to enhance natural changes that are essentially converting conventional disposal cell covers for uranium mill tailings into water balance covers. Conventional covers rely on a layer of compacted clayey soil to limit exhalation of radon gas and percolation of rainwater. Water balance covers rely on a less compacted soil “sponge” to store rainwater, and on soil evaporation and plant transpiration (evapotranspiration) to remove stored water and thereby limit percolation. Over time, natural soil-forming and ecological processes are changing conventional covers by increasing hydraulic conductivity, loosening compaction, and increasing evapotranspiration. The rock armor on conventional covers creates a favorable habitat for vegetation by slowing soil evaporation, increasing soil water storage, and trapping dust and organic matter, thereby providing the water and nutrients needed for plant germination, survival, and sustainable transpiration. Goals and Objectives Our overall goal is to determine if allowing or enhancing these natural changes could improve cover performance and reduce maintenance costs over the long term. This test pad study focuses on cover soil hydrology and ecology. Companion studies are evaluating effects of natural and enhanced changes in covers on radon attenuation, erosion, and biointrusion. We constructedmore » a test cover at the Grand Junction disposal site to evaluate soil manipulation and revegetation methods. The engineering design, construction, and properties of the test cover match the upper three layers of the nearby disposal cell cover: a 1-foot armoring of rock riprap, a 6-inch bedding layer of coarse sand and gravel, and a 2-foot protection layer of compacted fine soil. The test cover does not have a radon barrier—cover enhancement tests leave the radon barrier intact. We tested furrowing and ripping as means for creating depressions parallel to the slope contour, bringing soil up into the rock riprap layer, and loosening and blending compacted fine soil with coarse sand and gravel layers. Objectives of these manipulations include (1) enhancing root growth, (2) increasing seed-soil contact, (3) catching runoff water for plant germination and growth, (4) increasing soil water storage capacity, and (5) enhancing deep drying by disrupting the capillary barrier at the interface of the bedding and protection layers.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc.
  2. Desert Research Inst. (DRI), Reno, NV (United States)
  3. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Program Document
Research Org:
US Department of Energy/Office of Legacy Management
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Legacy Management (LM), Office of Site Operations (LM-20)
Country of Publication:
United States