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Model Supports Groundwater Risk Calculations

Tool suite and vitrification invited topics at annual meeting

September 2015
Model Supports Groundwater Risk Calculations
Simulated groundwater levels for the Argentine Basin

At the 12th annual meeting of the Argentine Joint Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy Cooperation (JSCNEC) in Idaho Falls in August, PNNL shared progress on the development of a site-specific groundwater flow model.

Vicky Freedman, invited speaker and PNNL scientist, updated participants about the development of a groundwater model of an Argentine basin being built by PNNL scientists using the Advanced Simulation Capability for Environmental Management (ASCEM) software. The groundwater model will be used as a management tool for identifying potential risks posed by two nuclear power plants sited within the basin. Two additional power plants are planned for the same basin.

ASCEM, developed under DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, is a suite of toolsets that facilitate the development of subsurface models. It provides a unified framework with easy access to model setup, analysis methods and results visualization. The newly developed groundwater flow model enables users to predict the potential impacts of accidental releases.

ASCEM Toolsets

  • make data generated from advanced subsurface knowledge and research calculations available to enable effective remediation decisions
  • facilitate robust and standardized development of performance and risk assessments for cleanup and closure activities
  • help derive cost-effective disposal solutions that protect human health and the environment

"The site groundwater flow and transport model will be refined for use, especially if the plant were to site a low-level waste repository there," Freedman said. "The model will help users design a future facility and identify any risks associated with potential contaminant releases."

Freedman also attended last year's meeting, where she met her Argentine counterparts on the ACSEM project. In addition to the groundwater model, Argentine counterparts have expressed an interest in the vitrification of high-level waste. So this year, Freedman provided a general overview of the vitrification process and its applications.

The annual Argentine JSCNEC meeting, sponsored by the State Department, promotes collaboration and goodwill in discussing nuclear management, while working together to mitigate problems of the same kind the U.S. Department of Energy faces with its legacy waste sites. Now in its second year, this work is funded by DOE’s Office of Environmental Management International Program.

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