Yucca Mountain Area Saturated Zone Dissolved Organic Carbon Isotopic Data

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Groundwater samples in the Yucca Mountain area were collected for chemical and isotopic analyses and measurements of water temperature, pH, specific conductivity, and alkalinity were obtained at the well or spring at the time of sampling. For this project, groundwater samples were analyzed for major-ion chemistry, deuterium, oxygen-18, and carbon isotopes of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) performed all the fieldwork on this project including measurement of water chemistry field parameters and sample collection. The major ions dissolved in the groundwater, deuterium, oxygen-18, and carbon isotopes of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) ... continued below

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Thomas, James; Decker, David; Patterson, Gary; Peterman, Zell; Mihevc, Todd; Larsen, Jessica et al. June 25, 2007.

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Description

Groundwater samples in the Yucca Mountain area were collected for chemical and isotopic analyses and measurements of water temperature, pH, specific conductivity, and alkalinity were obtained at the well or spring at the time of sampling. For this project, groundwater samples were analyzed for major-ion chemistry, deuterium, oxygen-18, and carbon isotopes of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC). The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) performed all the fieldwork on this project including measurement of water chemistry field parameters and sample collection. The major ions dissolved in the groundwater, deuterium, oxygen-18, and carbon isotopes of dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) were analyzed by the USGS. All preparation and processing of samples for DOC carbon isotopic analyses and geochemical modeling were performed by the Desert Research Institute (DRI). Analysis of the DOC carbon dioxide gas produced at DRI to obtain carbon-13 and carbon-14 values was conducted at the University of Arizona Accelerator Facility (a NSHE Yucca Mountain project QA qualified contract facility). The major-ion chemistry, deuterium, oxygen-18, and carbon isotopes of DIC were used in geochemical modeling (NETPATH) to determine groundwater sources, flow paths, mixing, and ages. The carbon isotopes of DOC were used to calculate groundwater ages that are independent of DIC model corrected carbon-14 ages. The DIC model corrected carbon-14 calculated ages were used to evaluate groundwater travel times for mixtures of water including water beneath Yucca Mountain. When possible, groundwater travel times were calculated for groundwater flow from beneath Yucca Mountain to down gradient sample sites. DOC carbon-14 groundwater ages were also calculated for groundwaters in the Yucca Mountain area. When possible, groundwater travel times were estimated for groundwater flow from beneath Yucca Mountain to down gradient groundwater sample sites using the DOC calculated groundwater ages. The DIC calculated groundwater ages were compared with DOC calculated groundwater ages and both of these ages were compared to travel times developed in ground-water flow and transport models. If nuclear waste is stored in Yucca Mountain, the saturated zone is the final barrier against the release of radionuclides to the environment. The most recent rendition of the TSPA takes little credit for the presence of the saturated zone and is a testament to the inadequate understanding of this important barrier. If radionuclides reach the saturated zone beneath Yucca Mountain, then there is a travel time before they would leave the Yucca Mountain area and flow down gradient to the Amargosa Valley area. Knowing how long it takes groundwater in the saturated zone to flow from beneath Yucca Mountain to down gradient areas is critical information for potential radionuclide transport. Radionuclide transport in groundwater may be the quickest pathway for radionuclides in the proposed Yucca Mountain repository to reach land surface by way of groundwater pumped in Amargosa Valley. An alternative approach to ground-water flow and transport models to determine the travel time of radionuclides from beneath Yucca Mountain to down gradient areas in the saturated zone is by carbon-14 dating of both inorganic and organic carbon dissolved in the groundwater. A standard method of determining ground-water ages is to measure the carbon-13 and carbon-14 of DIC in the groundwater and then correct the measured carbon-14 along a flow path for geochemical reactions that involve carbon containing phases. These geochemical reactions are constrained by carbon-13 and isotopic fractionations. Without correcting for geochemical reactions, the ground-water ages calculated from only the differences in carbon-14 measured along a flow path (assuming the decrease in carbon-14 is due strictly to radioactive decay) could be tens of thousands of years too old. The computer program NETPATH, developed by the USGS, is the best geochemical program for correcting carbon-14 activities for geochemical reactions. The DIC carbon-14 corrected ages can be further constrained by measuring the carbon isotopes of DOC. Because the only source of organic carbon in aquifers is almost always greater than 40,000 years old, any organic carbon that may be added to the groundwater would contain no carbon-14. Thus, ground-water ages determined by carbon isotopes of DOC should be maximum ages that can be used to constrain DIC corrected ages.

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  • Report No.: DOE/RW12232-1NQ
  • Grant Number: FC28-04RW12232
  • DOI: 10.2172/909181 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 909181
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc890191

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  • June 25, 2007

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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Thomas, James; Decker, David; Patterson, Gary; Peterman, Zell; Mihevc, Todd; Larsen, Jessica et al. Yucca Mountain Area Saturated Zone Dissolved Organic Carbon Isotopic Data, report, June 25, 2007; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc890191/: accessed August 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.