Evaluating the Potential of East Texas Interior Salt Domes for Isolation of Nuclear Wastes

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Date

1977

Authors

Brown, Jr., L. F

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Abstract

At least as early as 1960, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was contracting studies of the suitability of salt (halite) as repositories for waste nuclear products. Underground disposal offers the most favorable means of ensuring confinement of a growing volume of nuclear waste products. The chemical and physical properties of salt, either in domes or in bedded layers, have focused principal attention on the potential nature of salt repositories.

Bedded salt deposits of various ages occur as strata within numerous sedimentary basins in the United States. In Texas, parts of the Permian Basin, the Palo Duro and Dalhart basins, are currently under investigation to determine waste isolation potential by the Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin.

Texas also contains at least 78 on-land salt domes that are sufficiently shallow to identify by conventional geophysical and drilling/subsurface mapping methods. Of these 78 domes, 20 domes occur within the interior East Texas Basin. Previous workers have considered coastal domes to be unstable and have also rejected about two-thirds of the Texas interior domes for various reasons (to be discussed later). Consequently, using a variety of criteria and data, approximately a half dozen interior Texas salt domes are currently "unrejected" by studies to date.

At this time, it is necessary to reassess the earlier studies of East Texas interior domes, review the potential of the domes for nuclear waste isolation, and undertake intensive analysis of selected, high-priority candidate domes. This thorough evaluation must precede any decision concerning the actual use of the domes for nuclear waste disposal. Every conceivable natural factor must be considered and tested if necessary. Principal research effort should be focused very quickly on specific domes. We believe, however, that along with site-specific studies, continuing analysis of regional geohydrologic systems and salt-basin tectonics should be integrated with site-specific evaluations.

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