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

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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). ... continued below

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315 pages

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Hassan, Ahmed; Pohlmann, Karl & Chapman, Jenny November 19, 2002.

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Description

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.

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315 pages

Notes

OSTI as DE00806659

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  • Other Information: Supercedes report DE00806659; PBD: 19 Nov 2002

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  • Report No.: DOE/NV/11508-51
  • Report No.: DRI pub. no. 45172
  • Grant Number: AC08-95NV11508
  • DOI: 10.2172/806659 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 806659
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc739920

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  • November 19, 2002

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  • Oct. 18, 2015, 6:40 p.m.

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  • April 21, 2016, 2:30 p.m.

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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, report, November 19, 2002; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc739920/: accessed December 14, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.