Dripping into subterranean cavities from unsaturated fractures under ventilated conditions

Fedors, R. ; Ghezzehei, T. ; Or, D.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 5
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2002
The phenomena of dripping into cavities (e.g., tunnels and drifts) within an unsaturated fractured porous medium under ventilated conditions was studied to improve estimates of dripping rates, drop sizes and the chemical composition of droplets that could affect the integrity of high-level nuclear waste packages placed in drifts. The sensitivity of dripping rates and water chemistry to ventilation was analyzed at various flow rates using analytical expressions linking flow on fracture surfaces to drop formation and evaporation. The model was tested using laboratory experiments involving machined aluminum slabs designed to represent a simplified morphology of a fracture face intersecting a cavity and using natural fracture surfaces from a welded tuff Comparison with ten years of data on dripping in natural caves showed good agreement with model predictions. In particular, for low dripping rates, evaporation due to ventilation leads to larger drop sizes and alters drop chemistry by increasing the concentration of solutes in the drop relative to that in the water flowing on the fracture face.
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