Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Nevada System of Higher Education


Yucca Mountain has been proposed by the U.S. Department of Energy as the nation’s long-term, permanent geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste. The potential repository would be located in Yucca Mountain’s unsaturated zone (UZ), which acts as a critical natural barrier delaying arrival of radionuclides to the water table. Since radionuclide transport in groundwater can pose serious threats to human health and the environment, it is important to understand how much and how fast water and radionuclides travel through the UZ to groundwater. The UZ system consists of multiple hydrogeologic units whose hydraulic and geochemical properties exhibit systematic and random spatial variation, or heterogeneity, at multiple scales. Predictions of radionuclide transport under such complicated conditions are uncertain, and the uncertainty complicates decision making and risk analysis. This project aims at using geostatistical and stochastic methods to assess uncertainty of unsaturated flow and radionuclide transport in the UZ at Yucca Mountain. Focus of this study is parameter uncertainty of hydraulic and transport properties of the UZ. The parametric uncertainty arises since limited parameter measurements are unable to deterministically describe spatial variability of the parameters. In this project, matrix porosity, permeability and sorption coefficient of the reactive tracer (neptunium) of the UZ are treated as random variables. Corresponding propagation of parametric uncertainty is quantitatively measured using mean, variance, 5th and 95th percentiles of simulated state variables (e.g., saturation, capillary pressure, percolation flux, and travel time). These statistics are evaluated using a Monte Carlo method, in which a three-dimensional flow and transport model implemented using the TOUGH2 code is executed with multiple parameter realizations of the random model parameters.


Groundwater – Pollution – Prevention; Hazardous waste sites – Zone of aeration; Nevada – Yucca Mountain; Radioactive pollution of water – Prevention; Radioactive wastes – Storage; Radioisotopes — Migration


Earth Sciences | Geology | Hydrology




Signatures have been redacted for privacy and security measures.
Report Document Identifier TR-07-003
Task ORD-FY04-016