Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, 54(1-2), 37-57, 2002.

Migration of a water pulse through fractured porous media

S. Finsterlea, J. T. Fabryka-Martinb, and J. S. Y. Wanga

a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Earth Sciences Division
University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720

b Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, NM


Abstract. Contaminant transport from waste-disposal sites is strongly affected by the presence of fractures and the degree of fracture-matrix interaction. Characterization of potential contaminant plumes at such sites is difficult, both experimentally and numerically. Simulations of water flow through fractured rock were performed to examine the penetration depth of a large pulse of water entering such a system. Construction water traced with lithium bromide was released during the excavation of a tunnel at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, which is located in an unsaturated fractured tuff formation. Modeling of construction-water migration is qualitatively compared with bromide-to-chloride ratio (Br/Cl) data for pore-water salts extracted from drillcores. The influences of local heterogeneities in the fracture network and variations in hydrogeologic parameters were examined by sensitivity analyses and Monte Carlo simulations. The simulation results are qualitatively consistent with the observed Br/Cl signals, although these data may only indicate a minimum penetration depth, and water may have migrated farther through the fracture network.