Groundwater flow and radionuclide transport in fault zones in granitic rock Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/2r36v2241

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  • Fault zones are potential paths for release of radioactive nuclides from radioactive-waste repositories in granitic rock. This research considers detailed maps of en echelon fault zones at two sites in southern Sweden, as a basis for analyses of how their internal geometry can influence groundwater flow and transport of radioactive nuclides. Fracture intensity within these zones is anisotropic and correlated over scales of several meters along strike, corresponding to the length and spacing of the en echelon steps. Flow modeling indicates these properties lead to correlation of zone transmissivity over similar scales. Intensity of fractures in the damage zone adjoining en echelon segments decreases exponentially with distance. These fractures are linked to en echelon segments as a hierarchical pattern of branches. Echelon steps also show a hierarchical internal structure. These traits suggest a fractal increase in the amount of pore volume that solute can access by diffusive mass transfer, with increasing distance from en echelon segments. Consequences may include tailing of solute breakthrough curves, similar to that observed in underground tracer experiments at one of the mapping sites. The implications of echelon-zone architecture are evaluated by numerical simulation of flow and solute transport in 2-D network models, including deterministic models based directly on mapping data, and a statistical model. The simulations account for advection, diffusion-controlled mixing across streamlines within fractures and at intersections, and diffusion into both stagnant branch fractures and macroscopically unfractured matrix. The simulations show that secondary fractures contribute to retardation of solute, although their net effect is sensitive to assumptions regarding heterogeneity of transmissivity and transport aperture. Detailed results provide insight into the function of secondary fractures as an immobile domain affecting mass transfer on time scales relevant to field characterization and repository safety assessment. In practical terms, secondary fractures in these en echelon zones are not indicated to limit release of radiation to the surface environment, to a degree that is significant for improving repository safety. Thus en echelon zones are to be regarded as detrimental geologic features, with potentially complex transport behavior which should be considered in the interpretation of in-situ experiments.
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