Description: In the unsaturated zone at Yucca Mountain, liquid flow along preferential fracture pathways is the only credible mechanism capable of bringing water to waste packages and transporting radionuclide to the water table. Three categories of features or mechanisms will mitigate the impact of flow along preferential fracture pathways: (1) discontinuity in fracture pathways, (2) liquid-phase dispersion in fracture networks, and (3) fracture-matrix interaction. For repository areal power densities (APDs) that are too low to result in significant boiling or rock dry-out effects, the primary mode of fracture-matrix interaction is matrix imbibition. For high APDs, boiling and enhanced matrix imbibition due to rock dry-out significantly add to the capacity of the unsaturated zone to retard fracture-dominated flow. With the use of V-TOUGH code, hydrothermal flow calculations are made for a range of APDs and spent fuel ages. For APD > 20 kW/acre, repository-heat-generated flow of vapor and liquid in fractures is found to dominate the ambient hydrological system. For high APDs, boiling conditions can persist for 10,000 yr or longer and rock-dry benefits for at least 100,000 yr.
Date: January 15, 1992
Creator: Buscheck, T.A. & Nitao, J.J.
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