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Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5280

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy, under Interagency Agreements DE-AI08-92NV10874 and DE-AI08-97NV12033

Analysis of Conservative Tracer Tests in the Bullfrog, Tram, and Prow Pass Tuffs, 1996 to 1998, Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada

By Amjad Umari, Michael F. Fahy, John D. Earle, and Patrick Tucci

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Scientific Investigations Report
2007-5280 PDF (3.4 MB)

To evaluate the potential for transport of radionuclides in ground water from the proposed high-level nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, conservative (nonsorbing) tracer tests were conducted among three boreholes, known as the C-hole Complex, and values for transport (or flow) porosity, storage (or matrix) porosity, longitudinal dispersivity, and the extent of matrix diffusion were obtained. The C-holes are completed in a sequence of Miocene tuffaceous rock, consisting of nonwelded to densely welded ash-flow tuff with intervals of ash-fall tuff and volcaniclastic rocks, covered by Quaternary alluvium. The lower part of the tuffaceous-rock sequence includes the Prow Pass, Bullfrog, and Tram Tuffs of the Crater Flat Group. The rocks are pervaded by tectonic and cooling fractures. Paleozoic limestone and dolomite underlie the tuffaceous rocks.

Four radially convergent and one partially recirculating conservative (nonsorbing) tracer tests were conducted at the C-hole Complex from 1996 to 1998 to establish values for flow porosity, storage porosity, longitudinal dispersivity, and extent of matrix diffusion in the Bullfrog and Tram Tuffs and the Prow Pass Tuff. Tracer tests included (1) injection of iodide into the combined Bullfrog-Tram interval; (2) injection of 2,6 difluorobenzoic acid into the Lower Bullfrog interval; (3) injection of 3-carbamoyl-2-pyridone into the Lower Bullfrog interval; and (4) injection of iodide and 2,4,5 trifluorobenzoic acid, followed by 2,3,4,5 tetrafluorobenzoic acid, into the Prow Pass Tuff. All tracer tests were analyzed by the Moench single- and dual-porosity analytical solutions to the advection-dispersion equation or by superposition of these solutions. Nonlinear regression techniques were used to corroborate tracer solution results, to obtain optimal parameter values from the solutions, and to quantify parameter uncertainty resulting from analyzing two of the three radially convergent conservative tracer tests conducted in the Bullfrog and Tram intervals.

Longitudinal dispersivity values in the Bullfrog and Tram Tuffs ranged from 1.83 to 2.6 meters, flow-porosity values from 0.072 to 0.099, and matrix-porosity values from 0.088 to 0.19. The flow-porosity values indicate that the pathways between boreholes UE-25 c#2 and UE-25 c#3 in the Bullfrog and Tram intervals are not connected well.

Tracer testing in the Prow Pass interval indicates different transport characteristics than those obtained in the Bullfrog and Tram intervals. In the Prow Pass Tuff, longitudinal dispersivity was 0.27 meter, flow porosity was 4.5 × 10–4, and matrix porosity was 0.01. This indicates that the flow network in the Prow Pass is dominated by interconnected fractures, whereas in the Bullfrog and Tram, the flow network is dominated by discontinuous fractures with connecting segments of matrix.

Version 1.0

Posted May 2008

Suggested citation:

Umari, Amjad, Fahy, Michael F., Earle, John D., and Tucci, Patrick, 2008, Analysis of conservative tracer tests in the Bullfrog, Tram, and Prow Pass Tuffs, 1996 to 1998, Yucca Mountain, Nye County, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5280, 40 p.




Purpose and Scope

Previous Work


Hydrogeologic Setting at the C-hole Complex

Tracer Tests at the C-hole Complex

Field and Laboratory Methods

Analytical Solution Methods

Tracer Tests in the Bullfrog and Tram Tuffs

Iodide Tracer Test in the Lower Bullfrog–Upper Tram Interval

2,6 Difluorobenzoic Acid Tracer Test in the Lower Bullfrog Interval

Pyridone Tracer Test in the Lower Bullfrog Interval

Tracer Tests in the Prow Pass Tuff

2,4,5 Trifluorobenzoic Acid and Iodide Test from Borehole UE-25 c#3 to UE-25 c#2

Single-Porosity, Radially Convergent Solution

Single-Porosity, Partially Recirculating Solution

Dual-Porosity, Partially Recirculating Solution

2,3,4,5 Tetrafluorobenzoic Acid Test from Borehole UE-25 c#1 to UE-25 c#2

Summary of Transport Parameter Values and Presentation of Conceptual Models of Solute Transport in the Bullfrog, Tram, and Prow Pass Tuffs

Uncertainties and Limitations




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