Technical Issues for Chemical Waste Isolation in Solution-Mined Caverns in Salt Domes

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Seni, Steven J.
Mullican, William F.
Hamlin, H. Scott

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Many factors contribute to assessing the technical viability of isolating chemical waste in solution-mined caverns within salt domes. Our investigation highlights several key factors of primary importance, including geohydrology, engineering considerations, and the stability of the geologic isolation system, encompassing the cavern, cap rock, and surrounding strata. These factors are largely interconnected and mutually dependent.

An essential initial step involves detailed mapping of the domal system, including the cap rock, salt stock, and surrounding domed strata, a level of detail often lacking in public sources and geological literature. Postulated release scenarios typically involve waste transport via groundwater, making the direction and rates of groundwater flow critical. Groundwater flow is influenced by various factors such as rock matrix composition, depositional systems, sand-body geometry, and fault patterns.

The cap rock serves as a focal point for many domal processes and is a dynamically changing region of a salt dome. Studies on cap-rock properties can help determine whether salt domes are undergoing uplift or dissolution. The cap rock plays a crucial role in either facilitating or impeding dome dissolution and cavern stability. Further research on salt domes should focus on defining the geometry and structure of cap rocks, identifying cap-rock lost-circulation zones, understanding the geometry, structure, and stratigraphy of salt stocks and caverns, assessing salt-cavern stability, and investigating domal geohydrology.

In the following sections, we discuss various issues that need to be addressed to evaluate the technical feasibility of isolating chemical waste in solution-mined caverns within salt domes.


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