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A Mountain-Scale Model for Characterizing Unsaturated Flow and Transport in Fractured Tuffs of Yucca Mountain

Wu, Yu-Shu, Lu, Guoping, Zhang, Keni, Bodvarsson, G. S.
Vadose zone journal 2004 v.3 no.3 pp. 796-805
climatic factors, mathematical models, mountains, radioactive waste, unsaturated flow, vadose zone, Nevada
We present a large-scale modeling study characterizing fluid flow and tracer transport in the unsaturated zone (UZ) of Yucca Mountain, Nevada, the proposed underground repository site for storing high-level radioactive waste. The modeling study is conducted using a three-dimensional numerical model, which incorporates a wide variety of field data and takes into account the coupled processes of flow and transport in Yucca Mountain's highly heterogeneous, unsaturated, fractured porous rock. The modeling approach is based on a dual-continuum formulation. Using different conceptual models of unsaturated flow, various scenarios of current and future climate conditions and their effects on the UZ are evaluated to aid in the assessment of the repository's system performance. These models are calibrated against field-measured data. Model-predicted flow and transport processes under current and future climates are discussed.