Final report of the Peña Blanca natural analogue project

Levy, Schön S. and Goldstein, Steven Joel and Abdel-Fattah, Amr I. and Amato, Ronald S. and Anthony, Elizabeth and Cook, Paul and Dobson, Patrick F. and Fayek, Mostafa and French, Diana and de Garza, Rodrigo and Ghezzehei, Teamrat and Goodell, Philip C. and Harder, Steven H. and Ku, Teh-Lung and Luo, Shangde and Murrell, Michael Tildon and Norman, Deborah E. and Nunn, Andrew J. and Oliver, Ronald and Pekar-Carpenter, Katrina and Rearick, Michael Sean and Ren, Minghua and Reyes-Cortes, Ignacio and Pineda, Jose Alfredo and Saulnier, George and Tarimala, Sowmitri and Walton, John

, 2016.

Abstract

The Peña Blanca region, 50 km north of Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, México, was a target of uranium exploration and mining by the Mexican government. After mining ceased in 1981, researchers became interested in this region as a study area for subsurface uranium migration with relevance to geologic disposal of nuclear waste. Many studies related to this concept were conducted at the Nopal I mine site located on a cuesta (hill) of the Sierra Peña Blanca. This site has geologic, tectonic, hydrologic, and geochemical similarities to Yucca Mountain, Nevada, a formerly proposed site for a high-level nuclear-waste repository in the unsaturated zone. The U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE), Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM), sponsored studies at Nopal I in the 1990s and supported the drilling of three research wells – PB1, PB2, and PB3 – at the site in 2003. Beginning in 2004, the Peña Blanca Natural Analogue Project was undertaken by U.S. DOE, OCRWM to develop a three-dimensional conceptual model of the transport of uranium and its radiogenic daughter products at the Nopal I site.