Thermally induced groundwater flow resulting from an underground nuclear test

R. M. Maxwell, A. F.B. Tompson, J. T. Rambo, S. F. Carle, G. A. Pawloski

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


We examine the transient residual thermal signal resulting from an underground nuclear test (buried below the water table) and its potential to affect local groundwater flow and radionuclide migration in a saturated, fractured, volcanic aquifer system. Thermal profiles measured in a drillback hole between 154 days and 6.5 years after the test have been used to calibrate a non-isothermal model of fluid flow. In this process, we have estimated the magnitude and relative changes in permeability, porosity and fracture density between different portions of the disturbed and undisturbed geologic medium surrounding the test location. The relative impacts of buoyancy forces (arising from the thermal residual of the test and the background geothermal gradient) and horizontal pressure gradients on the post-test flow system are better understood. A transient particle/streamline model of contaminant transport is used to visualize streamlines and streaklines of the flow field and to examine the migration of non-reactive radionuclides. Sensitivity analyses are performed to understand the effects of local and sub-regional geologic features, and the effects of fractured zones on the movement of groundwater and thermal energy. Conclusions regarding the overall effect of the thermal regime on the residence times and fluxes of radionuclides out of the system are drawn, and implications for more complicated, reactive contaminant transport are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationComputational methods in water resources - Volume 1 - Computational methods for subsurface flow and transport
EditorsL.R. Bentley, J.F. Sykes, C.A. Brebbia, W.G. Gray, G.F. Pinder, L.R. Bentley, J.F. Sykes, C.A. Brebbia, W.G. Gray, G.F. Pinder
PublisherA.A. Balkema
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9058091244
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes
EventComputational Methods in Water Resources XIII - Calgary, Canada
Duration: Jun 25 2000Jun 29 2000


OtherComputational Methods in Water Resources XIII

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Engineering
  • General Environmental Science


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