Fundamental studies of micromechanics, fracturing progression, and flow properties in tuffaceous rocks for the application of nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain.
KeywordsRadioactive waste sites -- Research -- Nevada -- Yucca Mountain.
Volcanic ash, tuff, etc. -- Research.
Committee ChairKemeny, John M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractYucca Mountain, Nevada is the proposed site for the underground storage of high-level civilian nuclear waste in the United States. The repository must be isolated from the general environment for at least 10,000 years. Ground water and gases are potential carriers of radioactive materials. Fractures and connected pores in the host rock are the major pathways for ground water and gases. Therefore, the mechanical and flow properties of the host rock should be understood and utilized in the design of the underground repository. Samples of Topopah Spring tuff from Yucca Mountain were used in this study. Cylindrical specimens were prepared to perform uniaxial and triaxial "damage" tests where specimens are loaded to a particular stress level to induce damage and fracturing and then unloaded. Mechanisms of microcracking at different fracturing levels have been studied by using both an optical microscope and a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM). The original rock sample without loading was also observed under the microscopes. Many kinds of defects including pores, preexisting fractures, and soft inclusions were found in the undamaged Apache Leap tuff samples. Pores were determined to be the main microstructures in Topopah Spring tuff that could influence the mechanical and hydrologic properties. Under compressive stresses, microcracking initiates from some of the pores. These microcracks will interact and coalescence to form large microcracks or macroscopic cracks as the load is increased. Crack propagation phenomena, such as pore cracking, pore linking, pore collapse and the formation of en echelon arrays were all found in specimens unloaded prior to complete failure. The failure of tuff specimens is often through a process of shear localization. In summary, the deformation and failure of both tuffs occurred by progressive fracturing, starting from microcracking on the small scale, and ending as fractures coalesced to form macroscopic fractures and shear localization. On the basis of the experimental studies, micromechanical models such as the pore collapse model and the pore linking model have been developed based on fracture mechanics theory. These models are used to predict the constitutive behavior for tuff and the predicted stress-strain curves match well with the experimental curves.
Degree ProgramMining and Geological Engineering