Radionuclide Partitioning in an Underground Nuclear Test Cavity

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In 2004, a borehole was drilled into the 1983 Chancellor underground nuclear test cavity to investigate the distribution of radionuclides within the cavity. Sidewall core samples were collected from a range of depths within the re-entry hole and two sidetrack holes. Upon completion of drilling, casing was installed and a submersible pump was used to collect groundwater samples. Test debris and groundwater samples were analyzed for a variety of radionuclides including the fission products {sup 99}Tc, {sup 125}Sb, {sup 129}I, {sup 137}Cs, and {sup 155}Eu, the activation products {sup 60}Co, {sup 152}Eu, and {sup 154}Eu, and the actinides U, Pu, ... continued below

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Rose, T P; Hu, Q; Zhao, P; Conrado, C L; Dickerson, R; Eaton, G F et al. January 9, 2009.

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In 2004, a borehole was drilled into the 1983 Chancellor underground nuclear test cavity to investigate the distribution of radionuclides within the cavity. Sidewall core samples were collected from a range of depths within the re-entry hole and two sidetrack holes. Upon completion of drilling, casing was installed and a submersible pump was used to collect groundwater samples. Test debris and groundwater samples were analyzed for a variety of radionuclides including the fission products {sup 99}Tc, {sup 125}Sb, {sup 129}I, {sup 137}Cs, and {sup 155}Eu, the activation products {sup 60}Co, {sup 152}Eu, and {sup 154}Eu, and the actinides U, Pu, and Am. In addition, the physical and bulk chemical properties of the test debris were characterized using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and Electron Microprobe measurements. Analytical results were used to evaluate the partitioning of radionuclides between the melt glass, rubble, and groundwater phases in the Chancellor test cavity. Three comparative approaches were used to calculate partitioning values, though each method could not be applied to every nuclide. These approaches are based on: (1) the average Area 19 inventory from Bowen et al. (2001); (2) melt glass, rubble, and groundwater mass estimates from Zhao et al. (2008); and (3) fission product mass yield data from England and Rider (1994). The U and Pu analyses of the test debris are classified and partitioning estimates for these elements were calculated directly from the classified Miller et al. (2002) inventory for the Chancellor test. The partitioning results from this study were compared to partitioning data that were previously published by the IAEA (1998). Predictions of radionuclide distributions from the two studies are in agreement for a majority of the nuclides under consideration. Substantial differences were noted in the partitioning values for {sup 99}Tc, {sup 125}Sb, {sup 129}I, and uranium. These differences are attributable to two factors: chemical volatility effects that occur during the initial plasma condensation, and groundwater remobilization that occurs over a much longer time frame. Fission product partitioning is very sensitive to the early cooling history of the test cavity because the decay of short-lived (t{sub 1/2} < 1 hour) fission-chain precursors occurs on the same time scale as melt glass condensation. Fission product chains that include both volatile and refractory elements, like the mass 99, 125, and 129 chains, can show large variations in partitioning behavior depending on the cooling history of the cavity. Uranium exhibits similar behavior, though the chemical processes are poorly understood. The water temperature within the Chancellor cavity remains elevated (75 C) more than two decades after the test. Under hydrothermal conditions, high solubility chemical species such as {sup 125}Sb and {sup 129}I are readily dissolved and transported in solution. SEM analyses of melt glass samples show clear evidence of glass dissolution and secondary hydrothermal mineral deposition. Remobilization of {sup 99}Tc is also expected during hydrothermal activity, but moderately reducing conditions within the Chancellor cavity appear to limit the transport of {sup 99}Tc. It is recommended that the results from this study should be used together with the IAEA data to update the range in partitioning values for contaminant transport models at the Nevada National Security Site (formerly known as the Nevada Test Site).

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PDF-file: 89 pages; size: 1.8 Mbytes

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  • Report No.: LLNL-TR-409817
  • Grant Number: W-7405-ENG-48
  • DOI: 10.2172/1019060 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1019060
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc836453

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Creation Date

  • January 9, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Dec. 1, 2016, 1:06 p.m.

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Rose, T P; Hu, Q; Zhao, P; Conrado, C L; Dickerson, R; Eaton, G F et al. Radionuclide Partitioning in an Underground Nuclear Test Cavity, report, January 9, 2009; Livermore, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc836453/: accessed August 21, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.