• Using Geophysical Constraints To Determine Groundwater Travel Times, Seafloor Arrival Locations, And Saltwater Concentrations For Transition Zone Depths At Underground Nuclear Detonations On Amchitka Island

      Wagner, Anna M.; Barnes, David (2007)
      There is a great amount of radioactive material in the subsurface of Amchitka Island as a result from underground nuclear testing performed between 1965 and 1971. It is unknown how long it will take for the radionuclides to travel to the seafloor and the marine environment or where possible seepage zones will occur. The contaminant transport is greatly affected by the location of the transition zone (TZ) and the effective porosity, which were both determined by magnetotellurics (MT) in 2004. The hypothesis of this study was as follows: the groundwater travel times and seafloor arrival locations, can be estimated through groundwater modeling, with the location of the transition zone being estimated by magnetotellurics. An additional hypothesis is as follows: saltwater concentration for a TZ and the general subsurface characteristics can be quantified with groundwater modeling, using geophysical constraints in combination with saltwater and hydraulic head measurements. The groundwater travel times were estimated with groundwater modeling using the transition zone location as determined by MT. Shortest groundwater travel times are 1,200 and 2,100 years, at Long Shot and Cannikin respectively. At Long Shot, a decreased groundwater travel time of up to 55% could be seen when an enhanced hydraulic conductivity was included at the location of an assumed andesite sill layer. The seafloor arrival locations can be up to 1,000 and 2,100 m offshore at Long Shot and Cannikin respectively but will most likely occur closer to shore. This study was also successful at establishing the general characteristics of the subsurface by using geophysical constraints in combination with saltwater and hydraulic head measurements. The subsurface at Long Shot is isotropic or has mild anisotropy ratio of 1:2, which confirms the study by Fenske (1972). As represented in this study, this method has been shown to be valuable in determining the saltwater concentration of the TZ as determined by MT and can thus be used in further studies of islands and coastal areas.