Description: Analytic solutions are employed to investigate potential groundwater transport of tritium from a radioactive tracer site near the Project Gnome site in southeastern New Mexico. The tracer test was conducted in 1963 and introduced significant quantities of radionuclides to the transmissive and laterally continuous Culebra dolomite. Groundwater in the Culebra near Gnome travels toward a regional discharge point at the Pecos River, a distance of about 10 to 15 km, depending on flow path. Groundwater transport of radionuclides from the Gnome site is therefore of interest due to the proximity of the accessible environment and the 31-year time period during which migration is likely to have occurred. The analytical stochastic solutions used incorporate the heterogeneity observed in the Culebra by treating transmissivity as a spatially correlated random field. The results indicate that significant spreading of tritium will occur in the Culebra dolomite as a result of the combination of relatively high transmissivity, high spatial variability, and high spatial correlation of transmissivity. Longitudinal spreading may cause a very small fraction of tritium mass to arrive at the Pecos River within the 31 years since the tracer test. However, dilution and transverse dispersion will act to distribute this mass over a very large volume, thereby reducing groundwater concentrations. Despite the high degree of spreading, the calculations indicate that most of the tritium remains near the source. At present, the center of mass is estimated to have moved approximately 260 m downgradient of the test location and about 95 percent of the mass is estimated to have remained within about 1 km downgradient.
Date: August 1, 1994
Creator: Pohlmann, K. & Andricevic, R.
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