Mechanical Degradation of Emplacement Drifts at Yucca Mountain-A Modeling Case Study-Part I: Nonlithophysal Rock

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International Journal of Rock Mechanics and Mining Sciences





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This paper outlines rock mechanics investigations associated with mechanical degradation of planned emplacement drifts at Yucca Mountain, which is the designated site for the proposed US high-level nuclear waste repository. The factors leading to drift degradation include stresses from the overburden, stresses induced by the heat released from the emplaced waste, stresses due to seismically related ground motions, and time-dependent strength degradation. The welded tuff emplacement horizon consists of two groups of rock with distinct engineering properties: nonlithophysal units and lithophysal units, based on the relative proportion of lithophysal cavities. The term ‘lithophysal’ refers to hollow, bubble like cavities in volcanic rock that are surrounded by a porous rim formed by fine-grained alkali feldspar, quartz, and other minerals. Lithophysae are typically a few centimeters to a few decimeters in diameter. Part I of the paper concentrates on the generally hard, strong, and fractured nonlithophysal rock. The degradation behavior of the tunnels in the nonlithophysal rock is controlled by the occurrence of keyblocks. A statistically equivalent fracture model was generated based on extensive underground fracture mapping data from the Exploratory Studies Facility at Yucca Mountain. Three-dimensional distinct block analyses, generated with the fracture patterns randomly selected from the fracture model, were developed with the consideration of in situ, thermal, and seismic loads. In this study, field data, laboratory data, and numerical analyses are well integrated to provide a solution for the unique problem of modeling drift degradation.


Discontinuum numerical modeling; Drift degradation; Mining engineering; Nuclear waste; Rockfall; Rock mechanics; Yucca Mountain


Civil and Environmental Engineering | Environmental Engineering | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Monitoring | Environmental Sciences | Nuclear Engineering | Structural Engineering




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