Incorporating long-term climate change in performance assessment for the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Description: The United States Department of Energy (DOE) is developing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in southeastern New Mexico for the disposal of transuranic wastes generated by defense programs. Applicable regulations (40 CFR 191) require the DOE to evaluate disposal-system performance for 10,000 yr. Climatic changes may affect performance by altering groundwater flow. Paleoclimatic data from southeastern New Mexico and the surrounding area indicate that the wettest and coolest Quaternary climate at the site can be represented by that at the last glacial maximum, when mean annual precipitation was approximately twice that of the present. The hottest and driest climates have been similar to that of the present. The regularity of global glacial cycles during the late Pleistocene confirms that the climate of the last glacial maximum is suitable for use as a cooler and wetter bound for variability during the next 10,000 yr. Climate variability is incorporated into groundwater-flow modeling for WIPP PA by causing hydraulic head in a portion of the model-domain boundary to rise to the ground surface with hypothetical increases in precipitation during the next 10,000 yr. Variability in modeled disposal-system performance introduced by allowing had values to vary over this range is insignificant compared to variability resulting from other causes, including incomplete understanding of transport processes. Preliminary performance assessments suggest that climate variability will not affect regulatory compliance.
Date: March 1, 1994
Creator: Swift, P.N.; Baker, B.L.; Economy, K.; Garner, J.W.; Helton, J.C. & Rudeen, D.K.
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Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department